Marina Miraglia Barbara de Santis Elena Pannunzi Francesca Debegnach and Carlo Brera


Sound strategies for the meaningful evaluation of mycotoxin contamination should include: (i) identification of the sites (where) and time (when) that lots are to be sampled, and (ii) a protocol to ensure that the test sample is representative of the lot from which it was taken. In this chapter we detail the European norms for sampling for aflatoxins in cereals, milk, dried fruits, dried figs, peanuts, nuts, spices and baby foods, for ochratoxin A in cereals, coffee, dried fruits, spices, wine, dried vine fruits and baby foods, and for Fusarium toxins in cereals and baby foods.


The availability of high quality concentration residue data is an indispensable tool for making food safety assessments. However, the determination of the concentration of a given analyte is the final step of a chain of activities (Fig. 1); the first step of which is the selection of the time and location of sampling. The appropriateness and the reliability of each step are crucial to the reliability of the conclusions to be drawn from the data.

These steps are important for most of the food safety issues, but they have particular importance for mycotoxins because of the peculiarities of this type of contamination, the most important of which is the heterogeneous distribution of mycotoxins in the lots. Therefore, the concepts of "fit for purpose sampling" and of "representativeness of the laboratory sample" must be considered by all those who collect or use such data from food and feed, e.g., scientists, risk managers, risk assessors and risk communicators. Cooperation and collaboration amongst and between those who collect and use these data will increase the confidence in the data and its suitability for regulatory and scientific purposes.

"Fit for purpose" sampling for mycotoxins

A "fit for purpose" sampling for mycotoxins requires decisions on "where and when" to collect samples, e.g., where: field, ship, silo, processing step or retail; when: identification

Figure 1. Sources of errors in each step of the analytical chain.

of a time relative to a benchmark such as harvest; and "how many" and "how large" the sampling for any particular samples should be. Mycotoxins have their own individual characteristics that depend on the potentially contaminated food matrix, the producing fungus, when contamination is most likely to occur, e.g., in field, storage or shipping; geographic origin, the stability of the toxin in the matrix; the need to test the sample for more than one toxin, potential decontamination processes, the projected end use of the product, and the possibility that other compounds might be present that would complicate the analytical processes.

Concentration data for the presence of mycotoxins in foods and feeds are needed by different categories of people depending on the objective of the assessment. Thus there is no single sampling protocol for mycotoxins and each set of data should be derived from ad hoc collected samples, with the sampling process taking into account the decisions that will be based on the mycotoxin contamination data once the data have been obtained.

Risk managers require a variety of data/information on the status of contamination of both raw materials and final products to take adequate preventive/corrective actions, and must assume each set of samples has been properly drawn. For example, risk managers need reliable data on the contamination of samples collected from imported goods. Results based on these samples will influence economic, trade and political decisions and will drive the frequency and level of appropriate official controls. The location and time of taking samples for regulatory purposes should be selected based on knowledge of existing and emerging problems in the country or area of origin. Data on the effects of processing on mycotoxins should be given to risk managers to determine if different maximum limits should be set for raw and processed products. Such differentiated regulations could reduce the detrimental economic impact that could result from unnecessarily stringent limits on raw materials. Health perspective risk managers also need data on finished food and feed products to provide policy makers with information on compliance with maximum limits, and to confirm both compliance with and appropriateness of food safety schemes.

Table 1. Subdivision of lots into sublots, number of incremental samples and weight of aggregate sample to be taken and number of laboratory samples for aflatoxins in dried figs, peanuts, nuts and spices.


Lot weight

Weight (t)

Number of


Number of labora-

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