Natural Toxins Contamination In Baby Foods And Cereals


The food industry is being supported by new Fapas proficiency tests to ensure the safety of baby food and cereal products.

The ergot alkaloids in baby food proficiency tests and the tropane alkaloids in cereal proficiency tests have been developed by Fapas, the proficiency testing arm of Fera. They are designed to help food testing laboratories evaluate their ability to identify and quantify ergot alkaloids in multigrain baby food products and tropane alkaloids in cereals.

Ergot alkaloids are mycotoxins produced by several species of fungi. They are known to attack rye, wheat and triticale, which are common ingredients in baby foods. Ingestion of ergot alkaloids can lead to ergotism, the effect of long-term poisoning: this causes convulsive and gangrenous symptoms in humans. Cereals are at high risk of mycotoxins where environmental conditions lead to fungal growth.

Tropane alkaloids are secondary metabolites which occur in a range of plants and can be sources of plant contamination in grown foodstuffs. They can have a number of harmful effects if ingested. It can be difficult to physically separate tropane alkaloid-containing plant material from harvested produce and, as with ergot alkaloids, infants are particularly at risk from the consumption of natural plant toxins.

The European Commission has discussed setting maximum levels (MLs) for ergot alkaloids in cereal-based products and has published Regulation (EU 2016/239) to amend maximum levels for tropane alkaloids in certain cereal-based foods for infants and young children.

The proficiency test will help testing laboratories, working with baby food producers, to analyse their results when testing for ergot alkaloids and tropane alkaloids, identify trends and demonstrate their competency to their customers, accreditation bodies and managers.

Fapas is an ISO 17043 accredited proficiency test provider. It has been a trusted global leader in proficiency testing in the food and beverage sector for more than 30 years and the ergot alkaloids in baby food proficiency test is part of a range of proficiency tests which are available until the end of March 2020. Fapas has already produced proficiency tests for ergot alkaloids in rye flour; the new test targets baby food as a finished product.

Fapas’s proficiency tests have been designed to help testing laboratories improve testing standards and demonstrate compliance.

As Fapas provides proficiency testing across 120 countries, laboratories are able to measure the success of their testing methods against peers worldwide. Its proficiency testing also helps laboratories to gain and maintain ISO 17025 accreditation and Fapas’s timely reporting can help laboratories to identify or avoid costly errors, potentially mitigating business risks such as product failure, non-compliance, damage to brand and legal issues.

The robust analytical data provided by Fapas allows laboratories to make evidence-based decisions over operations and procedures and helps them to work more effectively.

Fera is a private and public sector joint venture which innovates and develops good, translational science that will protect and enhance food, plant, animal and environmental quality.

Mark Sykes, scientific advisor of proficiency testing for Fapas, said: “It’s vital that testing laboratories working with baby foods and cereal products are producing the most accurate results possible – and that the food industry has confidence in the safety of its products.

“These new proficiency tests for ergot alkaloids and tropane alkaloids will be an important resource for laboratories in proving their ability to test effectively for mycotoxins.”

Sarah Hasnip, Head of Fapas at Fera, added:We have listened to customers and industry alike and as a result we are increasing the number of types of tests we offer and providing new tools that will enable our customers to chart and analyse their results to identify any trends. All of which we hope will support our customers to demonstrate their excellence in testing to their clients and accreditation bodies.”

Fera is able to call upon the skills and capabilities of 300 scientists at the National Agri-food Innovation Campus near York to bring specialist expertise to the food industry’s challenges. It is the UK National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for Mycotoxins and Plant Toxins in Food and Feed. It has extensive knowledge in the analysis of mycotoxins in food, feed and food crops and has carried out many research projects and surveillance exercises for the UK Food Standards Agency, The EU and commercial customers.

For more information on Fapas, visit

For more information on Fera, visit

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