Ochratoxin A in food: public health risks assessed

EFSA has published a scientific opinion on public health risks related to the presence of ochratoxin A (OTA) in food – a mycotoxin naturally produced by moulds that can be found in a variety of foodstuffs including cereals, preserved meats, fresh and dried fruit, and cheese.

New data that have become available since the last assessment in 2006 suggest that OTA can be genotoxic by directly damaging the DNA. Experts also confirmed that it can be carcinogenic to the kidney. Therefore experts calculated a margin of exposure (MOE). This is a tool used by risk assessors to consider possible safety concerns arising from the presence in food and feed of substances which are both genotoxic and carcinogenic.

In its previous opinion, EFSA established a tolerable weekly intakeThe maximum intake of substances in food, such as nutrients or contaminants, that can be consumed weekly over a lifetime without risking adverse health effects. (TWI) based on toxicity and carcinogenicity to the kidney.

Experts have now used a more conservative approach by calculating MOE and concluded that there is a health concern for most consumers groups. EFSA’s scientific advice will inform the European Commission in the ongoing discussion on maximum levels of OTA in foodstuffs.

EFSA consulted stakeholders and different parties on its draft opinion and comments received were considered when finalising it.

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