Random food survey finds fungal toxins over limits

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 - Page 3

A random survey of fungal toxins in food products found three items that failed to meet the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Sanitation Standard for the Tolerance of Mycotoxins in Foods.

Of the 163 food items spot-checked by authorities, three products were found to be substandard, with fungal toxins exceeding tolerable limits, said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which conducted the survey jointly with local health departments from April to June.

One sample of red yeast rice and a case of red yeast enzyme supplement contained excessively high levels of citrinin, while a red adlay product contained more than the permissible level for aflatoxin, the FDA said.

The three food products have all been seized and destroyed in accordance with the law, it said.

The red adlay product was imported from Thailand by a local company, the FDA said, adding that it would step up inspections of the company’s imports.

Rice, wheat, nuts, Job’s tears (adlay), dried fruit, coffee and juice — which may easily be contaminated by mold if not stored properly — were among the products that the FDA inspected.

They were tested for the presence and levels of four types of mycotoxins — aflatoxin, ochratoxin A, patulin and citrinin — depending on the type of food product, the agency said.

Aflatoxins can produce acute necrosis, cirrhosis and carcinoma of the liver in a number of animal species, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.

Since no animal species is resistant to its acute toxic effects, “it is logical to assume that humans may be similarly affected,” the US agency said.

Yen Tsung-hai (顏宗海), a toxicologist at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Linkou, was quoted as saying in a Central News Agency report that aflatoxins are of high toxicity and people with the hepatitis B virus or a weak liver are especially susceptible to their harmful effects, which might increase their risk of developing cirrhosis or cancer.