The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety (VKM) has on request from the Norwegian Food Safety Authority conducted a risk assessment of mycotoxins in ceral grain in Norway.
In the light of constantly new knowledge on toxicity and the rise in the level of mycotoxin contamination during recent years, in a letter dated September 21st 2010, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority requested the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety (VKM) to undertake a risk assessment on mycotoxins in cereal grain.
In cereals, the most important mycotoxin-producing fungi are Fusarium species, which infect cereals during the growing season and cause yield loss and mycotoxin contamination of the grain. With the current occurrence of mycotoxins in grains in Norway VKM identified deoxynivalenol (DON) as the main mycotoxin of concern for human and animal health.
Pig is in comparison to other domestic animals, particularly sensitive to DON. At current levels of DON in pig feed there is a high risk that DON reduces the pigs´ performance and welfare.
For humans, the calculated exposure shows that infants and children exceed the TDI for DON from consumption of flour and oat flakes. Exceeding the TDI is of concern, although the TDI is not a threshold for toxicity.
Although there is a large annual variation in the occurrence of DON, VKM notes that during the last decade, parallel to an increased precipitation during the flowering period, there has been a strong increase in the infection rate and occurrence of DON in oats and wheat.
Future climate change in Norway, with increased temperature and possibly increased precipitation during the flowering period, would imply a significant increase in problems with Fusarium infection and occurrence of mycotoxins in cereals in the years to come.
VKM also identified important gaps in knowledge and data with respect to plant production, especially concerning Fusarium infection rates and protective measures against infection. Also, data on occurrence and data on toxicity of mycotoxins, particularly in some domestic animal species and for emerging toxins, are lacking.
VKM appointed three project groups consisting of both VKM members and external experts to answer the request from the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.
The reports from the project groups have been evaluated and approved by Panel on contaminants, Panel on animal feed, Panel on plant health, and the final opinion has been approved by the Scientific Steering Committee of VKM.