Mycotoxins – New EU maximum limits for Ochratoxin A in certain foodstuffs

Affidia Journal

On August 8th was published the Commission Regulation (EU) 2022/1370 of 5 August 2022 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels of Ochratoxin A in certain foodstuffs.

Ochratoxin A (OTA) is a naturally occurring foodborne mycotoxin produced by various fungi of the genus Aspergillus and Penicillium, and it can be found in a wide variety of agricultural commodities, such as grains, seeds and beans, dried fruits, spices, and roots.

OTA is formed during sun drying and storage of crops, and, due to its stability under moderate heating, it can persist along the food production chain. However, losses ranging up to 90% have been observed at temperatures above 180°C.

Several toxic effects associated with OTA have been reported over the years.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has included OTA in its Group 2 carcinogens, due to its kidney carcinogenicity, even if the mechanisms of genotoxicity are still unclear.

In 2006 the European Food Safety Authority performed a first risk assessment for OTA. In agreement with this assessment, the European Commission established in Regulation (EC) 1881/2006 maximum admissible levels of OTA for human consumption in many foodstuffs, such as cereals, coffee, grapes, grapefruit, dried vine fruits, wine, spices, and liquorice.

In recent years, further findings of high levels of Ochratoxin A were observed in food products for which no maximum levels were set at EU level, this raised questions regarding the necessity of setting new maximum levels for OTA in these foods.

In May 2020, EFSA published a revision of the OTA risk assessment, taking into account the new scientific evidence.

Based on this new risk assessment, the EU Commission established the Regulation (EU) 2022/1370, which revised the maximum levels for OTA present in Regulation (EC) 1881/2006 as follows:
• setting a maximum level for foods not yet included that contribute to human exposure to OTA;
• setting a level for non-alcoholic malt beverages and date syrup, pending the determination of a link with the OTA content of malt and dates;
• reducing the levels already set in certain foods (e.g. bakery products, dried vine fruit, roasted coffee and soluble coffee);
• the existing provisions for ochratoxin A in certain spices has been broadened to all spices.
For cheese and ham, it has been established that additional monitoring on the presence of ochratoxin A is appropriate before the setting of maximum levels.

The new Regulation will enter into force on the 28th of August 2022 and it shall apply from 1 January 2023.

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