OTA in food: public health risks assessed

19 May 2020

Article: 54/2004

The European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) has published a scientific opinion on public health risks related to the presence of Ochratoxin A (OTA) in food. OTA is a mycotoxin naturally produced by moulds found in a variety of foodstuffs, including cereals, preserved meats, fresh and dried fruit, and cheese.

In its previous assessment of OTA in food in 2006, the EFSA established a tolerable weekly intake (TWI) based on toxicity and carcinogenicity to the kidney. New data that have become available since this last assessment suggest that OTA can be genotoxic by directly damaging DNA, as well as being carcinogenic to the kidney. Researchers have now calculated a margin of exposure (MOE), 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. The MOE is a ratio of two factors which assesses for a given population the dose at which a small but measurable adverse effect is first observed, and the level of exposure to the substance considered.

This new assessment concludes that OTA does present a health concern for most consumer groups. The EFSA’s scientific advice will inform the European Commission in the ongoing discussion on maximum levels of OTA in foodstuffs.

Source: EFSA, 13 May 2020