Dietary exposure assessment to Alternaria toxins in the European population
Alternaria toxins are secondary metabolites produced by fungi that can contaminate cereals, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables. The chronic dietary exposure to four individual Alternaria toxins was estimated using 15,563 analytical results/4,249 samples (3,648 on alternariol (AOH), 3,654 on alternariol monomethyl ether (AME), 4,168 on tenuazonic acid (TeA) and 4,093 on tentoxin (TEN)). Most of the analytical results were left-censored data (92%), with only 1,290 quantified results (mainly on ‘Oilseeds’ and ‘Grain milling products’). The highest exposure to AOH was estimated in ‘Toddlers’, with the mean exposure between 3.8 and 71.6 ng/kg body weight (bw) per day (minimum lower bound–maximum upper bound, (LB–UB)) and the 95th percentile exposure between 11.4 and 270.5 ng/kg bw per day (LB–UB). Overall, ‘Fruit and fruit products’ were the most important contributors to the dietary exposure to AOH. The highest exposure to AME was estimated in ‘Toddlers’, with mean exposure between 3.4 and 38.8 ng/kg bw per day (LB–UB) and 95th percentile exposure between 10.3 and 97.3 ng/kg bw per day (LB–UB). Overall, the main contributors to the dietary exposure to AME were ‘Vegetable oil’ and ‘Pome fruits’ (pears). The highest exposure to TeA was estimated in ‘Toddlers’ with mean exposure between 100 and 1,614 ng/kg bw per day (LB–UB), and in ‘Infants’ for the 95th percentile exposure estimations (98–3,603 ng/kg bw per day, LB–UB). ‘Cereal-based food for infants and young children’ was the main contributor in ‘Infants’ and ‘Toddlers’, and tomatoes and tomato-based products in other age classes. The highest exposure to TEN was estimated in ‘Toddlers’, with the mean exposure between 1.6 and 33.4 ng/kg bw per day (LB–UB), and the 95th percentile exposure around 55 ng/kg bw per day (UB) in different age classes. ‘Fruiting vegetables’ (tomatoes) were the major contributor to the dietary exposure to TEN. Although based on limited data, vegetarians seem to have higher dietary exposure to Alternaria toxins than the general population.