Sarah De Saeger, Marthe De Boevre, Arnau Vidal
Centre of Excellence in Mycotoxicology and Public Health, Ghent University
Food Safety takes a prominent role in the Food Security problem. Mycotoxins, toxic fungal secondary metabolites, are one of the main food safety threats in developing countries. Co-occurrence of multiple mycotoxins in one crop as well as effects of climate change complicates this research field. The mycotoxin problem needs to be tackled in a multi-disciplinary way primarily focusing on prevention measures, but also mycotoxin analysis for monitoring and control purposes is definitely needed.
There are plenty of analytical techniques available for mycotoxin analyses in food, feed as well as in biological samples. Mycotoxin analytical methods include rapid screening as well as confirmation techniques. Sensitive on-site detection of mycotoxins in various matrices is highly needed. Therefore, both quantitative (ELISA, biosensors) and qualitative (lateral flow) systems for (multi)mycotoxin detection are being developed. Specific recognition elements as well as ultra-sensitive labels are under development in order to design more reliable rapid test-systems. HPLC and LC-MS/MS methods are mainly used as confirmatory methods and can be adopted to multi-mycotoxin analysis including modified mycotoxins. Moreover, high resolution mass spectrometry is gaining interest as it is an invaluable tool to discover unknown secondary fungal metabolites; to study degradation products and modified forms of mycotoxins as a result of processing techniques and use of detoxifying enzymes or microbes; and to unravel the human and animal mycotoxin metabolism.
Human mycotoxin exposure can be determined both indirectly (based on the combination of chemical analysis of foodstuffs and food consumption data) as well as directly by the determination of exposure biomarkers, mycotoxin biotransformation products, in biological fluids, such as urine or blood. In recent years many efforts have been put in the development of ultra-sensitive multi-mycotoxin LC-MS/MS for analysis of mycotoxin exposure biomarkers in urine and blood. However, still many gaps in our understanding of the human mycotoxin metabolism exist. For this reason, a human intervention study was performed to study the urinary excretion of deoxynivalenol (DON), DON-3-glucoside (DON3G) and two of its glucuronides. Such kind of study allows to determine the suitable biomarker(s) of exposure; to define appropriate urine collection periods; and to determine methods for dietary exposure estimates.
To obtain a substantial mycotoxin reduction, a holistic approach is needed in which all different research fields of mycotoxicology, together with (international) stakeholders such as food industry and governments work together. MYTOX-SOUTH (http://mytoxsouth.org) is an intercontinental, multi-disciplinary partnership striving to improve food security and food safety through mitigation of mycotoxins at global level with the following long-term goals: 1) building human and infrastructural capacity through training of South partners, 2) bridging the gap between research and the development and 3) stimulate the environment for a fruitful public-private partnership to create a sustainable network.
The second part of my presentation will give examples of projects developed together with the South to study risk management strategies. Mainly, it will highlight the need for capacity development and how this can be practically achieved through training and education.