Ensuring food safety with a tandem mass spectrometry approach for mycotoxin quantification

With mycotoxins on the rise, food safety and authenticity expert Michele Suman looks at how to deploy tandem mass spectrometry for mycotoxin quantification.

Mycotoxin contamination seriously threatens the safety and stability of global food chains. Produced by fungi, these potentially toxic secondary metabolites affect a broad range of foodstuffs, including cereals, fruits, and spices. And the problem is widespread: approximately 25 percent of all crops are contaminated.1

Despite the current prevalence of mycotoxins (Figure 1), the contamination problem is set to grow further. Changes to weather, such as increasing temperatures, provide the cosy conditions needed to modify toxin growth and occurrence across various geographical areas worldwide. This global warming not only amplifies current contamination levels – it also increases the risk of new strains and combinations emerging.

Suman Figure 1 mycotoxin

Figure 1: Occurrence of mycotoxins in animal feed across 15 geographic regions.2 Data indicates percentage of positive samples out of the total sample population in the region. Median concentration (µg/kg) of positive samples is also reported for each compound. Source: ‘Unmasking the rising threat of mycotoxins in the global food and feed supply chain’.3 Credit: SelectScience.

To protect human health in this changing landscape, global regulations are in place to ensure that food and crops are fit for consumption. To meet this legislation, products are extensively analysed to ensure they do not exceed legal mycotoxin levels. Sensitive and accurate techniques are crucial to ensure accurate quantitation and thereby support food safety: can liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) be the “comprehensive answer”.