Researchers from the University of Idaho in the USA have tested samples of various breakfast cereals on retail sale for the presence of the fungal toxin ochratoxin A (OTA) and found that some oat-based products contained undesirably high levels.
The researchers analysed 489 samples of cereals made from corn, wheat, rice and oats using a high-performance liquid chromatography method to detect OTA. They found that 205 samples (42%) were contaminated with the toxin at levels ranging from 0.10 to 9.30 ng/g.
Most of the samples tested recorded OTA levels below the EU regulatory limit of 3 ng/g, but levels above this limit were found in 16 samples of oat-based cereals. OTA is produced by fungi of the genus Aspergillus. It is a potent toxin that affects the kidneys and is also a probable carcinogen. The researchers conclude that their findings suggest greater surveillance of OTA in oats may be needed to reduce the risk to consumer health.
A report of the findings is published in the journal Agricultural and Food Chemistry and an abstract can be found here.