Mycotoxins are the protagonists of one in five food alerts in the European Union and it is very common to find them in certain spices. These toxins, produced by fungi, they contaminate 77% of paprika samples and 46% of nutmeg, according to the latest report of the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU).
As indicated in the report, these amounts do not have to be worrisome, however "they contribute to a global and cumulative intake that threatens our health." In addition, the organization also warns that they can cause cancer, in addition to having immunosuppressive effects, affect DNA and damage the liver and kidneys.
The European Union Food Security Alert System (RASFF) publishes data on recorded alerts every year, and This year there are 28% more new alerts compared to the previous one. Among them, the 'Salmonella', 'Listeria mocytogenes' and those that harbor chemical hazards such as the so-called 'Mycotoxins', present in nuts and seeds from third countries, as well as in certain spices.
The OCU wanted to track the presence in these products, finding that There are two types of especially dangerous mycotoxins: aflatoxin B1 and ochratoxin A, present in 71% of products, especially in those that are derived from paprika and nutmeg. These data have been able to obtain them after analyzing 26 samples of nutmeg and 100 paprika collected in Spain, Belgium and Portugal. They are not alarming levels, but the problem is that, if they accumulate in our body along with the toxins that other foods may have is what they call "sum effect".
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO),25% of the crops are contaminated by mycotoxins, especially in regions with hot and humid climates. In addition, spices are not the only foods, as the OCU wanted to highlight, it is possible to find aflatoxins in corn, peanuts, rice, cocoa, vegetable oils and other foods. Ochratoxin A, on the other hand, can also be found in legumes, beer, wine, coffee, etc.
The Organization of Consumers and Users has also warned of the need to give importance to the problem after the publication of its analysis, and call on the European authorities to strengthen measures to prevent mycotoxin contamination in food and to increase controls for food producers and marketers to carry out good food safety practices. On the other hand, they insist on "the need to follow a varied and balanced diet" to avoid risks linked to the so-called "sum effect", that is, to consume certain "suspicious" foods in a moderate way, rather than to eliminate them outright.