Research needs on mycotoxins

• Controlling and managing mycotoxins in an effective way requires science-based data. Therefore, national and regional surveillance studies of specific commodities are needed. The contamination process, when and under what conditions mycotoxin contamination may occur, needs to be defined by systematic studies during pre- and post-harvest stages. Prevention measures also should be defined for each critical step. In the field and farm, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) are effective in preventing or reducing preharvest contamination, e.g., pest and disease control, and proper irrigation prac tices. Correct harvesting time and good harvesting techniques also should be defined for the crops. The stage at which mycotoxins are most likely to be produced is during the long drying period before storage, so appropriate (simple, inexpensive and effective) drying techniques need to be developed. In addition, optimal storage conditions and parameters should be defined to prevent mycotoxin formation during storage, i.e., GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices), GHP (Good Hygienic Practices), GSP (Good Storage Practices). More systematically identifying Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is the most effective tool to use to manage mycotoxins as part of a food safety management system (FAO, 2001).

• Existing ecological conditions may favor the occurrence of mixtures of mycotoxins in agricultural products and foods. There are limited data on the co-occurrence of myco-toxins on commodities grown in the region.

• Establishment of a database on fungi and mycotoxins present in the region would help both scientists and regulatory bodies.

• Studies of exposure assessment, a part of risk assessment, are needed in the region. Sound data on the occurrence of mycotoxins grown and consumed in the region and the food intake by local populations are needed. There are some exposure studies for ochratoxin A in some countries.

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