Alternaria in Beer, Juices, Oils and Seeds - April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019
Food chemistry - Targeted surveys – Final report
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Targeted surveys provide information on potential food hazards and enhance the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA's) routine monitoring programs. These surveys provide evidence regarding the safety of the food supply, identify potential emerging hazards, and contribute new information and data to food categories where it may be limited or non-existent. They are often used by the Agency to focus surveillance on potential areas of higher risk. Surveys can also help to identify trends and provide information about how industry complies with Canadian regulations.
This targeted survey generated baseline surveillance data regarding Alternaria toxin levels in selected foods on the Canadian retail market. The most important Alternaria toxins are alternariol (AOH), alternariol monomethyl ether (AME), altuene (ALT) and L-tenuazonic acid (TeA). TeA is the most acutely toxic while AOH and AME have a lower toxicity.Footnote 1 However, there are several reports on the mutagenic and genotoxic effects of AME and AOHFootnote 2 as well as a tendency to kill fetuses of rats.Footnote 3
A total of 399 samples of beer, juices, oils and seeds were collected from retail locations in six cities across Canada and tested for AOH and AME. ALT and TeA were not included in the analytical method because of a lack of commercially available standards. AOH and/or AME were detected in 232 (58%) of the samples. The levels of AOH and AME were added so that the total Alternaria toxin levels are reported in this survey. The levels detected ranged from 0.050 parts-per-billion (ppb) to 573 ppb.
Currently in Canada as in the rest of the world, there are no regulated levels for Alternaria toxins in foods. Health Canada (HC) determined the levels of AOH and AME observed in the current survey are not expected to pose a concern to human health, therefore there were no recalls resulting from this survey. CFIA is conducting appropriate follow up activities which include further testing of similar products in previous and subsequent years.
Other regulatory agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration, Australia/New Zealand and the European Union are not monitoring their foods for Alternaria toxins or are not currently publishing the results. A comparison of the exposure of Canadian consumers to Alternaria toxins with persons in other countries is not possible. All data was shared with Health Canada. This data may be used in future risk assessments and to set standards in Canada and/or internationally.
What are targeted surveys
Targeted surveys are used by the CFIA to focus its surveillance activities on areas of highest health risk. The information gained from these surveys provides support for the allocation and prioritization of the Agency's activities to areas of greater concern. Originally started as a project under the Food Safety Action Plan (FSAP), targeted surveys have been embedded in our regular surveillance activities since 2013. Targeted surveys are a valuable tool for generating information on certain hazards in foods, identifying and characterizing new and emerging hazards, informing trend analysis, prompting and refining health risk assessments, highlighting potential contamination issues, as well as assessing and promoting compliance with Canadian regulations.
Food safety is a shared responsibility. We work with federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments and provide regulatory oversight of the food industry to promote safe handling of foods throughout the food production chain. The food industry and retail sectors in Canada are responsible for the food they produce and sell, while individual consumers are responsible for the safe handling of the food they have in their possession.
Why did we conduct this survey
The variety of beer, juices, oils and seeds is continuously increasing to meet consumers' demands. Moulds may develop in the field, during transport and/or during storage on the raw ingredients of these foods and beverages. Alternaria is a type of mould widely distributed in the soil and occurs in the air. Alternaria species are known as plant pathogens and as common allergens in humans.
Alternaria species also produce multiple toxins called mycotoxins. The most important ones are AOH, AME, ALT and TeA. Due to of the common presence of Alternaria, these toxins are frequently found in a wide variety of commodities. Alternaria mycotoxins have been recorded in fruits, such as apples, dark grapes, and citrus fruits, in vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and olives, and in fruit juices and beverages. They have also been found in grains such as wheat and barley, in sunflower seeds, and in wine. Alternaria has been reported to be the most frequent fungi invading tomatoes.Footnote 4
Among the mycotoxins produced by Alternaria species, TeA has the highest acute toxicity. In a study on mice, the oral administration of TeA salts to mice and rats resulted in cardiovascular collapse.Footnote 1 While the acute toxicity of AOH and AME is low, these toxins have shown genotoxic and mutagenic properties in cell cultures and laboratory animals.Footnote 2 These toxins have been observed to kill rat fetuses.Footnote 3 Exposure to Alternaria by inhalation can lead to asthma, infections and allergies. Dietary exposure has been linked to a variety of adverse health effects. TeA has been associated with human hematological disorders.Footnote 4
The primary source of Alternaria toxins in the human diet is fruit.Footnote 6 There are no Canadian or international regulations for Alternaria mycotoxins in foods.Footnote 6 The use of fungicide is the most common approach to manage the contamination of foods by Alternaria.
The main objectives of this targeted survey were to generate baseline surveillance data on the levels of Alternaria toxins in juices, beer, oils and seeds and to compare the prevalence of Alternaria mycotoxins in foods in this survey with that of other studies. Alternaria mycotoxins are not routinely monitored under other CFIA programs.
What did we sample
A variety of domestic and imported beer, juices, oils and seeds were sampled and tested between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019. Samples of products were collected from local/regional retail locations located in 6 major cities across Canada. These cities encompassed 4 Canadian geographical areas: Atlantic (Halifax), Quebec (Montreal), Ontario (Toronto, Ottawa) and the West (Vancouver and Calgary). The number of samples collected from these cities was in proportion to the relative population of the respective areas. The shelf life, storage conditions, and the cost of the food on the open market were not considered in this survey.
|Product type||Number of domestic samples||Number of imported samples Table Note a||Number of samples of unspecified Table Note b origin||Total number of samples|
How were samples analyzed and assessed
Samples were analyzed by an ISO/IEC 17025 accredited food testing laboratory under contract with the Government of Canada. The results are based on the food products as sold and not necessarily as they would be consumed.
There are no regulations in Canada or elsewhere in the world for Alternaria toxins in foods.Footnote 5 In the absence of a specific maximum level, the levels of Alternaria toxins are assessed by HC on a case-by-case basis using the most current scientific data available.
What were the survey results
A total of 399 samples of domestic and imported juices, beer, oils and seeds were tested for the Alternaria toxins AOH and AME. ALT and TeA were not included in the analytical method because of a lack of commercially available standards. AOH and/or AME were detected in 232 (58%) of the samples. The level of AOH and AME were added so that the total Alternaria toxin levels are reported in this survey. The levels ranged from 0.050 to 573 ppb. A summary of the Alternaria results by each product type can be seen in Table 2.
The percentage of samples with Alternaria toxin levels detected ranged from 28% in beer to 72% in juices and seeds. The highest average level of Alternaria toxins ranged from 0.26 ppb in beer to 17 ppb in juice. See Appendix A for a more detailed breakdown of the results by type of commodity (for example, by type of juice).
|Product type||Total number of samples||Number of positive samples||Min (ppb)||Max (ppb)||Average level (ppb) of positive results|
What do the survey results mean
The detection rates for Alternaria toxins in beer, juices, oils and seeds in this survey were comparable or lower than those reported in previous survey years and/or other cited scientific literature.Footnote 7,Footnote 8,Footnote 9,Footnote 10,Footnote 11,Footnote 12,Footnote 13,Footnote 14,Footnote 15,Footnote 16 The average and highest observed levels of Alternaria toxins in this survey were comparable to or lower than those reported in previous years. Also consistent with other surveys, the level of Alternaria toxins is low in commonly consumed juices (such as apple, orange and grape juices) but is high in juices containing pomegranate as a main ingredient.
|Product type||Jurisdiction/author||Survey year||Number of samples||Number (percentage) of samples with detected Alternaria toxins||Min (ppb)||Max (ppb)||Ave. (ppb)|
|Beer||CFIA||2018 to 2019||80||22 (27)||0.091||1.2||0.26|
|Beer||Germany - Bauer et al.||2014||44||44 (100)||0.23||1.6||0.56|
|Beer||Italy - Prelle et al.||2012||30||9 (30)||6.04||23.2||Not specified|
|Juice||CFIA||2018 to 2019||174||125 (72)||0.050||573||17|
|Juice||CFIA||2014 to 2016||273||138 (50)||0.050||619||69|
|Juice||EU - Patriarca et al.||2016||95||41 (43)||0.13||20.19||Not specified|
|Juice||China - Chen Fan et al.||2016||15||9 (60)||0.13||8.68||2.56|
|Juice||Italy – Prelle et al.||2012||10||0 (0)||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Juice||Canada - Lau et al.||2003||19||15 (79)||0.62||40.6||6.16|
|Juice||Canada - Scott et al.||1997||8||3 (38)||0.8||5.0||2.7|
|Juice||Spain - Delgado et al.||1993 to 1994||32||16 (50)||1.35||5.42||Not specified|
|Oils||CFIA||2018 to 2019||90||50 (56)||0.10||57||7.1|
|Oils||EU - Patriarca et al.||2016||19||16 (84)||2.8||14||Not specified|
|Seeds||CFIA||2018 to 2019||50||36 (72)||0.054||55||6.0|
|Seeds||EU - Patriarca et al.||2016||11||7 (64)||16.64||60||Not specified|
|Seeds||Argentina - Chulze et al.||1991 to 1992||150||134 (89)||30||1512||286|
|Seeds||Argentina - Torres et al.||1993||50||38 (76)||90||1026||415|
Other regulatory agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration, Australia/New Zealand and the European Union are not monitoring their foods for Alternaria toxins or at least, are not currently publishing the results. A comparison of the exposure of Canadian consumers to Alternaria toxins with persons in other countries is not possible.
|Product type||Product type/principal ingredient||Total number of samples||Number of samples with detected levels||Min (ppb)||Max (ppb)||Average level (ppb) of positive results|
|Juices||Apple (cider and juice)||27||12||0.12||1.8||0.44|
|Juices||Blend (with pomegranate)||3||3||5.8||573||253|
|Juices||Other Table Note c||11||8||0.26||12||3.3|
|Oils||Other Table Note d||7||1||N/A||0.1||N/A|
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