The analyses, developed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), will ensure that laboratories across the globe to are able to synchronise their working practices when testing for the contaminants. The methods were named as the yardstick tests by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN).
The methods were developed to measure aflatoxin B1 and zearalenone mycotoxins in cereal products for infants and young children. These lab tests, created under the leadership of Dr J. Stroka of the EU Reference Laboratory for Mycotoxins at the JRC’s Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) came into force as national standards this month.
“The adoption of these two methods as international standards will enable laboratories around the world to measure mycotoxin levels in infant food in a harmonised manner, helping to ensure the access to safe and healthy foodstuffs for one of society's most vulnerable groups,” said Krzysztof Maruszewski, director of JRC-IRMM.
Mycotoxins are contaminants produced by fungi, which enter the food chain through infected crops that are either consumed directly by humans or indirectly as a result of their being an animal feed ingredient. Dietary aflatoxins, a major global concern because of their toxicity, are common contaminants of cereals and nuts. Aflatoxin B, designated as a carcinogen by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is the most frequent type of the contaminant, estimated to be present in 60-80 per cent of tainted samples.
The JRC said the analyses were significant because of the relative vulnerability of infants to mycotoxins because of their relatively high intake of food products in relation to their bodyweight. The body said its development of quality assurance tools helps labs meet EU regulations on ensuring contaminants in foods do not exceed maximum limits.
Details of the analyses are listed below:
EN 15850 - Determination of zearalenone in maize based baby food, barley flour, maize flour, polenta, wheat flour and cereal based foods for infants and young children
The standard is based on high performance liquid chromatography with immunoaffinity column cleanup and fluorescence detection. A test portion is extracted with aqueous acetonitrile or methanol (according to the products analyzed). The extract is diluted with phosphate buffered saline to give an aqueous extract that is applied to an immunoaffinity column containing antibodies specific for zearalenone. Zearalenone is purified and concentrated on the column and removed from the antibodies using acetonitrile or methanol as eluent. The quantification of zearalenone is done by reverse-phase high performance liquid chromatography, using fluorescence detection.
EN 15851 - Determination of aflatoxin B1 in cereal based foods for infants and young children
The standard is based on high performance liquid chromatography with immunoaffinity column cleanup and fluorescence detection. A test portion is extracted with a mixture of methanol and water. The extract is filtered, diluted with phosphate buffered saline to a specified solvent concentration, and applied to an immunoaffinity column containing antibodies specific to aflatoxin B1. Aflatoxin B1 is purified and concentrated on the column and removed from the antibodies using methanol as eluent. The quantification of aflatoxin B1 is done by reverse-phase high performance liquid chromatography with post column derivatization involving bromination followed by fluorescence detection. The post column derivatization is achieved with either electrochemically generated bromine or with pyridinium hydrobromide perbromide.