The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said the presence of ochratoxin A (OTA) in food poses “a health concern for most consumers groups.”
OTA is a mycotoxin naturally produced by molds that can be found in a variety of foodstuffs, ranging from cereal grains, preserved meats, and fresh and dried fruit to cheese, wine and coffee.
The EFSA said 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.
In its just-published scientific opinion on public health risks related to the consumption of OTA in food, the EFSA said because of the new information, experts 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.
In its previous opinion, EFSA had established a tolerable weekly intake (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 said.
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 finalizing it.