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Ochratoxin A (OTA) is secondary metabolite naturally produced in food and feed by toxigenic fungi, especially some Aspergillus species and Penicillium verucosum. OTA is one of the most studied mycotoxins and is of great interest due to its toxic effects on human and animals. OTA is produced in different food and feed matrices and contaminates a large range of base foods including cereals and derivatives, spices, dried fruits, wine and coffee, etc. Morocco, a North African country, has a climate characterized by high humidity and temperature, which probably favors the growth of molds. This contribution gives an overview of principal investigations about the presence of OTA in foods available in Morocco. Due to its toxicity, OTA presence is increasingly regulated worldwide, especially in countries of the European Union. However, up until now, no regulation limits were in force in Morocco, probably due to the ignorance of the health and economic problems resulting from OTA contamination. Finally, recommendations and future research directions are given required to assess the situation completely.
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Toxins 2010, 2, 1121-1133; doi:10.3390/toxins2051121
ISSN 2072-6651
Ochratoxin A in Moroccan Foods: Occurrence and Legislation
Abdellah Zinedine
Laboratory of Food Toxicology, National Institute of Health (INH), 27 Avenue Ibn Battouta,
P.O. Box 769, Rabat-Agdal, Morocco; E-Mail:; Tel.: +212537771902;
Fax: +212537772067
Received: 2 April 2010; in revised form: 16 April 2010 / Accepted: 13 May 2010 /
Published: 14 May 2010
Abstract: Ochratoxin A (OTA) is secondary metabolite naturally produced in food and
feed by toxigenic fungi, especially some Aspergillus species and Penicillium verucosum.
OTA is one of the most studied mycotoxins and is of great interest due to its toxic effects
on human and animals. OTA is produced in different food and feed matrices and
contaminates a large range of base foods including cereals and derivatives, spices, dried
fruits, wine and coffee, etc. Morocco, a North African country, has a climate characterized
by high humidity and temperature, which probably favors the growth of molds. This
contribution gives an overview of principal investigations about the presence of OTA in
foods available in Morocco. Due to its toxicity, OTA presence is increasingly regulated
worldwide, especially in countries of the European Union. However, up until now, no
regulation limits were in force in Morocco, probably due to the ignorance of the health and
economic problems resulting from OTA contamination. Finally, recommendations and
future research directions are given required to assess the situation completely.
Keywords: ochratoxin A; occurrence; legislation; food; Morocco
1. Introduction
Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites principally produced by molds of genera Aspergillus,
Penicillium and Fusarium. Nowadays, more than 300 mycotoxins are known and their number is
constantly increasing, as well as the legislative provisions taken to control their presence in food and
feed [1,2]. The most known and studied mycotoxins are aflatoxins (AF), ochratoxin A and
Fusarium toxins.
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Ochratoxin A (OTA) is one the most studied mycotoxins because of the wide range of foodstuffs it
contaminates, and also because its occurrence has been reported in foodstuffs all around the world. In
North African countries, the foods most suspected to be susceptible to OTA contamination are
domestic and imported cereals such as wheat and sorghum, olives, poultry products, and spices [3].
Published data suggest an association between elevated exposure to OTA and cases of human
nephropathies in Tunisia and Egypt [46].
Morocco, a North African country, surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, is
characterized by a hot and humid climate, which probably favors growth of molds. OTA, a
nephrotoxic mycotoxin, usually enters the body via ingestion of contaminated foods. Considering its
chemical stability, OTA is of a potential risk for human health. The presence of OTA in foodstuffs
results in deterioration of the marketable quality and is responsible for economic losses. Little
investigations are available in Morocco on the contamination of foodstuffs by toxigenic fungi;
however, the presence of OTA in commercialized foodstuffs was reported [7]. The majority of the
total Moroccan population lives on the coasts that are about 4,500 km, and about two million people
suffer from chronic diseases of the kidney including chronic renal insufficiency and chronic interstitial
nephropathy, especially young people of both sexes. However, the etiology of the diseases is not well
established. The prevalence of these diseases is constantly increasing, but the implication of OTA is
not yet demonstrated. A preliminary survey reported that the Moroccan population is exposed to
OTA [8]. Indeed, 60% of the Moroccan human plasma sampled was positive for OTA (61.5% in the
male and 56% in the female population) with an average concentration of 0.29 ng/mL (0.31 ng/mL in
males and 0.26 ng/mL in females).
The aim of this contribution is to give a general review of the principal researches carried out on the
occurrence of OTA in food available in Morocco. The regulation of OTA in foods by the Moroccan
authorities is also discussed. Finally, research on OTA in Morocco should focus on devising a national
program on OTA surveillance and its prevalence in biological fluids of the population to assess the
situation completely in the country.
2. Toxicity of OTA
OTA is receiving increasing attention due to its toxic effects on humans and animals. Indeed, OTA
has been shown to be nephrotoxic, carcinogenic, immunotoxic, genotoxic and teratogenic to all animal
species tested. The genotoxicity of OTA has been postulated in vivo and in vitro [1]. Genotoxic effects
such as DNA strand breaks, sister chromatid exchanges, chromosomal aberrations and induction of
micronuclei have been observed in mammalian cell systems in response to OTA exposure [9]. The
presence of OTA in blood from healthy humans confirms a continuous and widespread exposure. A
positive correlation among human nephropathies and dietary OTA exposure or plasma concentrations
arises from several epidemiological studies [1,10]. In some Eastern European countries (Bulgaria,
Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Hertzegovinia and Slovenia), OTA has been implicated in a
human kidney disease, referred to as Balkan endemic nephropathy, characterized by tubule interstitial
nephritis and associated with high incidence of kidney, pelvis, ureter and urinary bladder tumors [10].
Consumption of food contaminated with OTA during pregnancy and/or childhood is suspected to
induce lesions in testicular DNA that could promote testicular cancer [11]. The mechanisms by which
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OTA is genotoxic have been recently reviewed [12,13]. One covalent DNA adduct has been identified
in vivo by ms/ms [14]. OTA was classified as a possible human carcinogen (group 2B) by the
International Agency for Research on Cancer since experimental studies demonstrated the evidence for
OTA carcinogenicity in animal [15]. A provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) of OTA at
100 ng/kg body weight (b.w.) corresponding to approximately 14 ng/kg b.w./day was established by
the Joint Committee FAO/WHO of Experts on Food Additives (JECFA) [16]. Nevertheless, the Panel
on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
recently derived a Tolerable Weekly Intake (TWI) of 120 ng/kg b.w for OTA, which corresponds to a
Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of 17.1 ng/kg b.w. [17]. However, the Virtually Safe Dose (VSD) of
1.8 ng/kg bw/day proposed by Kuiper-Goodman and Scott [18] that considers tumor formation by
OTA as an endpoint would be a more prudent safety level to set for OTA intake.
3. Production of OTA
Ochratoxin A is a mycotoxin that was firstly isolated in 1965 by van der Merve et al. [19] from
maize based products contaminated with Aspergillus ochraceus. OTA is chemically known as
N-{[(3R)-5-chloro-8-hydroxy-3-methyl-1-oxo-7-isochromanyl]-carbonyl}-3-phenyl-L-alanine (Figure 1).
Four years later, OTA was isolated by van Walbeek et al. [20] from the culture of Penicillium
verrucosum. OTA was described as one of the first groups of fungal metabolites that are toxic to
animals, which, with the AFs, launched the distinctive and diverse science of mycotoxicology in the
1960s. Nowadays, two groups of fungi are mainly involved in OTA production. In tropical regions
A. ochraceus is probably the main source, though several other aspergilli are also able to produce OTA
including strains of Aspergillus alliaceus, A. ostianus, A. sclerotiorum, A. sulphureus, A. melleus,
A. petrakii, A. glaucus, A. niger, A. awamori, A. foetidus, A. carbonarius, A. albertensis, A. auricomus
and A. wentii [21]. In cool temperate latitudes P. verrucosum is responsible, and probably most forms
of the fungus can be toxinogenic. Toxigenic species were found to colonize several agricultural
products and to be responsible for OTA contamination. Indeed, OTA has been widely detected in
cereals including, barley, wheat, maize and oat [22,23], green coffee [24], grape juice [25], and
wine [26,27]. OTA contamination of dried fruits was found to be due to the action of black Aspergilli
in Europe including Spain [28], France [29], the Czech Republic [30] and in other parts of the world
such as Argentina [31] and Australia [32].
Figure 1. Structure of OTA.
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4. Occurrence of OTA in Foods Available in Morocco
Cereals represent a staple food for the Moroccan population, therefore bearing high social,
economic and nutritional relevance. On average, Morocco consumes six million tons of cereals each
year. Moreover, cereals contribute to approximately 12% of the agricultural output and Moroccan
households spend 25% of their food expenditure on this kind of product. In addition, by 2020 the
Moroccan population will require 8.5 million tons of cereals for the national consumption. Due to
drought the country has endured during the last two decades, cereal yield production has been
dramatically reduced in the range of 2585% [33], leading to extensive importation from other
countries. Thus, Morocco imports cereals from various countries, particularly from France, USA,
Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Russia and Australia. It was reported that approximately 25% of cereals
produced in the world are contaminated by mycotoxins [34]. For these reasons, more importance has
been given to investigations of the presence of OTA in cereals and derivatives (bread, breakfast
cereals etc.) from Morocco. However, others foods that are also of importance were investigated by
Moroccan scientists especially olives, beverages, dried fruits etc. Data about the presence of OTA in
foods commercialized in Morocco are presented in Table 1.
Table 1. The occurrence of OTA in foods available in Morocco.
(ng/g or µg/L)
% of samples >
MRLs *
Cereals and derivatives
Wheat grain
Up to 30.6
Breakfast cereals
Dried fruits/nuts
Black olives
Up to 1.02
Fruits juices
* MRLs: Maximum Residues Limits fixed by the European Union.
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4.1. Raw cereals
By using Thin Layer Chromatography technique, preliminary surveys showed that Moroccan
agricultural products including cereals appeared to be contaminated with spores of toxigenic strains of
Aspergillus. Later, a series of analyses supported by the Direction of Frauds Repression (Ministry of
Agriculture) between 1991 and 1992 showed that one corn sample was found to be contaminated with
OTA [35].
Recently, we have carried out a study on the contamination of 60 samples of grains of cereals
commercialized in Morocco with mycotoxins. Results showed that 40, 40 and 55% of analyzed
samples of corn, wheat and barley were contaminated by OTA, respectively [36]. In barley samples,
OTA levels varied between 0.04 and 0.8 ng/g, with an average concentration of 0.17 ng/g. In corn
samples, the highest value found was 7.22 ng/g with an average value of 1.08 ng/g. In wheat samples,
the OTA average level was 0.42 ng/g and the maximum level was 1.72 ng/g.
Hajjaji et al. [37] investigated the co-occurrence of OTA and deoxynivalenol (DON) and the
associated toxigenic fungi in 17 samples of wheat grain from Morocco. Authors reported that few
samples were contaminated by the two mycotoxins (two samples for OTA and seven for DON). The
main isolated fungi belong to the Aspergillus, Penicillium and Fusarium genera; only two strains of
A. alliaceus and 14 strains of A. niger were able to synthesize OTA.
In Morocco, rice cultivation fluctuates vastly depending especially on climatic conditions. Of a
potential area of 25,000 ha in the Gharb plain, the harvested area varies from 500 to 13,000 ha. On
average the Moroccan population consumes 60,000 tons each year (2 kg/person/year). Due to the
drought the country has endured over the last two decades, rice yield production decreased
dramatically from 44,000 tons in 1993 to 2,500 tons in 1995, leading to extensive importation from
other countries. Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is an important food crop worldwide, along with wheat and
corn, and has been a major food in several countries. According to Park et al. [39], rice is naturally
contaminated with A. ochraceus spores. Rice is an aquatic plant and is usually harvested at very high
moisture levels (3550%). Therefore, mycotoxin-producing molds could contaminate the grain and
produce important quantities of OTA during storage. Furthermore, rice is a better substrate for the
characterization of OTA producing A. ochraceus strains.
The first investigation on the presence of OTA in rice commercialized in Morocco reported that
OTA contaminated 90% of total samples analyzed. Levels of contamination in positive samples ranged
between 0.02 and 32.4 ng/g, where the average level of OTA in positive rice samples is 4.15 ng/g.
15% of total analyzed samples of rice exceeded the MRL of OTA set by the EU regulations [38]. In
another study, Juan et al. [52] investigated the presence of OTA in 100 rice samples from five cities
(Rabat, Témara, Salé, Casablanca and Méknès) in Morocco. Levels of OTA in positive samples ranged
between 0.08 and 47 ng/g. The average contamination of all analyzed samples was 3.5 ng/g. The
highest frequency of positive samples (30%) and the most contaminated sample (47 ng/g) was found in
samples from Casablanca city, 14 out of 100 total samples exceeded the maximum level of 5 ng/g set
by European regulations for OTA in cereals. Based in the results presented in this study, Juan
et al. [52] estimated the daily intake of OTA in rice at 0.32 ng/kg b.w. for Moroccan consumers.
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4.2. Breakfast and infants cereals
Breakfast cereals are generally made from principal ingredients destined for human consumption
like wheat, rice, maize, barley and oat. Cereal grains are transformed to flakes and petals, and starch is
cleaved to simple and digestible sugars. Theses cereals are often combined with honey, sugar,
chocolate and dried fruits (raisins, bananas, nuts, etc.). Spoilage fungi are known to colonize most of
these ingredients. The most important abiotic factors influencing the growth and OTA production by
such spoilage fungi include water availability, temperature and when grain is moist, gas composition [40].
Breakfast cereals are generally commercialized in Morocco in small shops and supermarkets and
consumed especially by children. Thus, more importance to their safety is needed. It should be
clarified that most breakfast cereals available in Morocco are imported from foreign countries and
little information is available about their quality during their entry into the country. The occurrence of
OTA in 68 total analyzed samples of cereals products was studied using pressurized liquid extraction
coupled to liquid chromatography method. Results showed that only four samples of breakfast cereals
(two cornflakes samples (5.1 and 15.7 ng/g), one muesli sample (224.6 ng/g) and one fruits rings
sample (127.5 ng/g)) were contaminated with OTA. Levels of OTA in positive samples ranged from
5.1 to 224.6 ng/g [41]. All positive samples (5.8% of total samples) were above the maximum level set
by EU regulations for OTA in cereal products. However, all infant cereals analyzed in this survey were
free of OTA contamination.
4.3. Bread
In Morocco, large amounts of cereals are consumed. Bread is the food most consumed by the
population. Bread co is often homemade, especially in rural areas, but baker's yeast is frequently used
rather than traditional sourdough starters. Nowadays, a change of food consumption habits has
developed, with the increase in bread consumption, due to that the Moroccan's lifestyle has changed
because of new working conditions. The presence of OTA in bread consumed in Morocco has been
recently investigated [42]. A positive bread sample naturally contaminated with OTA is represented
in Figure 2.
Results of this study showed OTA contamination of 48 out of 100 total analyzed samples. Levels of
OTA in positive samples ranged between 0.14 and 149 ng/g, where the average level of OTA in
positive samples was 13 ng/g. The highest frequency of positive samples (61.5%) and the most
contaminated bread sample (149 ng/g) were found in the Casablanca area. In this survey, 26 % of total
samples exceeded the maximum limit (3 ng/g) set for OTA in cereal products by EU legislation.
Among cereal derived products, bread is of significant importance because it provides more
nutrients to the population than any other single food and it is particularly important as a source of
carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins. Bread is a product of daily consumption and highly demanded.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a 250 g/day intake, which corresponds to
90 kg/person/year. It was generally demonstrated that the main contributors to OTA intake are cereals
and cereal products. Several authors have indicated bread as one of the main sources of daily intake
of OTA.
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Figure 2. HPLC chromatograms of: (A) OTA standard solution (10 ng/mL); (B) a
contaminated sample of bread containing 2.5 ng/g of OTA.
OTA daily intake was estimated from this study. Given that bread consumption in Morocco is
estimated to 210 kg/year/person (i.e., 577 g/day/person), for an adult (60 kg b.w.), the estimated daily
intake of OTA was calculated to be 126 ng/kg b.w./day. This value is seven times higher than the
Tolerable Daily Intake (17.1 ng/kg b.w./day) set by the European Food Safety Authority [17], and nine
times higher than the value set by the FAO/WHO Committee of Experts on Food Additives
(14 ng/kg b.w./day) [16]. These results show that the Moroccan population is highly exposed to
damaging effects of OTA and it can be speculated that the exposure could be related to cases of
nephropathy widely reported in the country especially in young people of both sexes. However, this
hypothesis needs to be confirmed especially by determination of OTA in biological fluids (blood,
urine, breast milk etc.) in healthy individuals and from patients with renal dysfunctions (chronic renal
insufficiency, chronic interstitial nephropathy, etc.) as has been performed in some North African
countries like Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt [45].
4.4. Dried fruits and nuts
The Moroccan population consumes huge amounts of dried fruits directly or as ingredients included
in special foods especially prepared during the ‘Ramadan’ fasting month and festival days. Almost all
nuts such as pistachio, walnuts and peanuts consumed in Morocco are imported and little is known
about their quality. Consequently, it is important to study the presence of mycotoxins, since there is a
lack of information in the literature about their occurrence in these products. In Morocco, traditional
techniques for the transformation and conservation of fruits are still used. These practices are very
optimal conditions (especially temperature, humidity and fruits damages) for mold growth and
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mycotoxin production. The natural drying, which may consists of direct exposition of the fruit to the
sun, is widely used, especially in rural areas.
Fresh Fruits (raisins, figs etc.), having reached a sufficient degree of maturity, are gathered and
transported to drying places such as the terrace of houses or a fenced piece of land to prevent the
access of animals. These drying surfaces are generally exposed to a maximum of sun and are papered
with herbs to avoid the contact with the ground. Fruits are spread over these surfaces without
preliminary treatment. After drying, fruits are collected and stored. During the process of fruit drying,
the sugar is concentrated as the moisture content decreases resulting in an almost selective medium for
xerotolerant molds such as A. niger section nigri species. Among black aspergilli, A. carbonarius is the
OTA producing isolate observed most frequently. Other black aspergilli including the A. niger
aggregate and A. aculeatus have also been found to produce OTA on grapes. The incidence of AFs and
OTA in dried fruits and nuts could be avoided or at least decreased if good agricultural and
manufacturing practices from harvesting to processing were used. It should be mentioned that the
project for mycotoxin regulations did not set limits for AFs and OTA in dried fruits and nuts. The presence
of OTA in dried fruits and nuts from Morocco was studied by Zinedine et al. [38]. The authors reported
that the incidence of OTA in dried raisins, dried figs, walnuts, and peanuts was 30%, 65%, 35%, and
25% respectively, while pistachio samples were free of OTA. The OTA average values in positive
samples of peanut, dried figs, dried raisins and walnuts was 0.68, 0.33, 0.96 and 0.11 ng/g, respectively.
4.5. Beverages
Beverages are among the many food product groups at risk of contamination by harmful
mycotoxins. These mycotoxins may form in an agricultural product before beverage manufacturing, or
they may form during manufacturing. Beverages (wine, fruits juices and beer) produced in Morocco
were analyzed by Filali et al. [43] for their content of OTA. The results from 30 wine samples; 20 red,
seven white and three rosé, reported that OTA concentrations in the wines ranged from 0.028 to
3.24 µg/L with an overall median of 0.65 µg/L. The median concentration of OTA in white and rosé
wines was found to be 0.117 µg/L, whereas that in red wines was 0.912 µg/L. The concentration of
OTA in red wines ranged from 0.04 to 3.24 µg/L and those in the white and rosé wines from 0.028 to
0.540 µg/L. The red wines were thus more contaminated than white and rosé ones. The EU regulation
set the acceptable limit for OTA in wine to 2 µg/L [40]. Thus, one sample containing 3.24 µg/L was
above this limit. The results from analysis of 14 samples of various fruit juices (cocktail, orange,
mango, peach, pineapple, clementine and grapefruit) show that only one sample (grapefruit juice) was
contaminated, with a concentration of 1.16 µg/L. In analyzed beers, OTA was not detected. Almost all
the grapes produced in Morocco are used for the wine industry. Grape juices are imported from Europe
in very limited amounts and should not have a significant influence on the daily intake of OTA by the
Moroccan population [43].
4.6. Olives
The production of olives in Morocco is about 6.9% of the global world production. The traditional
harvest method used, and the long storage of fruits at ambient temperatures (1828 °C) before
processing, may result in a severe loss and a poor quality of olives. Micro-organisms involved in
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post-harvest alterations of the fruits before the fermentation processes were studied [46]. Many mold
strains, in particular Aspergillus and/or Penicillium, are able to develop on olives and produce OTA
and/or citrinin and/or AFs after harvest, during drying and storage of olives [47].
In Morocco, black table olives are prepared by an old process, which consists of drying and salting.
The harvested black olives are filled in bags and salted (solid salt is sprinkled on the fruits while filling
them in the bags). These bags are arranged one on the other and a heavy material (stone) is deposited
on the top bag. The bitter black liquid is driven out under the action of weight and salt. A survey of the
most frequent micro-organisms showed a low microbial load except for yeasts and molds. The most
representative microbiota of black olives was species of mulds, which may be associated with food
poisoning due to their mycotoxins [46]. On some occasions, phenomenally high concentrations of
OTA have been reported in black olives, e.g., Maaroufi et al. [4] reported the contamination of one
sample of black olives from Tunisia with a high level of 46,830 ng/g of OTA.
The occurrence of toxigenic molds in black olives processed by the non-controlled traditional
method is possible. Olives are among the commodities with high risk of mycotoxin contamination.
Gourama and Bullerman [48] isolated toxigenic strains of A. ochraceus that produced ochratoxins
from ‘Greek-style’ black olives produced in Morocco. A survey of the contamination of black olives
commercialized in Morocco with mycotoxins reported that OTA was detected in 36% of total analyzed
samples. OTA concentrations ranged from 0.62 to 4.8 ng/g with an overall median of 1.43 ng/g [49].
More recently, Roussos et al. [50] isolated strains of A. flavus and A. niger, from spoiled olive and
olive cake of the 2003 and 2004 olive oil production campaigns in Morocco, that produced AFB1 and
OTA. El Adlouni et al. [47] reported the presence of OTA, citrinin and AFs in black olive "Greek
style" purchased from supermarkets and retail markets and concluded that the simultaneous presence
of these toxins increases toxic risks and should spur authorities to control the conservation of olives
especially after harvest.
5. Regulation of OTA
Mycotoxins are classified as the most important chronic dietary risk factor, higher than food
additives, pesticide residues, plant toxins or synthetic contaminants. Since the 1960s, when the first
AFB1 molecule was discovered, many countries have established maximum limits to protect health
consumers against the risk of mycotoxins and to avoid the economic consequences of mycotoxin
contamination. Various scientific and socio-economic factors play a role in the decision-making
processes focused on setting limits for mycotoxins [23].
The regulation of mycotoxins in food and feed started in 1974, and since several countries have
established or proposed maximum limits of mycotoxins in foods. By 1997, 77 countries had specific
regulations for mycotoxins in different food and feed and 13 countries had general provisions, while
about 50 countries did not have data available. The number of countries with specific regulations for
mycotoxins has increased over the years. By the end of 2003, approximately 100 countries (covering
approximately 85% of the world's inhabitants) had specific regulations or detailed guidelines for
mycotoxins in food [51].
The regulations were related to traditional mycotoxins including OTA. According to the FAO
document, 15 African countries were known to have specific mycotoxin regulations. These countries
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cover approximately 59 percent of the inhabitants of the continent. In Morocco, no mycotoxins
regulations in food and feed are adopted by the authorities. However, a mycotoxin regulation project
was prepared by the Joint ministerial committee for food control and frauds repression (CIPCARF).
This project envisages the regulations of mineral and organic contaminants in food and feed and set
maximum permissible limits of mycotoxins in certain food products intended for human and animal
consumption. The proposed limit for cereals intended for human consumption is 30 ng/g for OTA.
Even if, according to FAO documentation [51], Morocco has the most detailed mycotoxin regulations
in comparison with some African countries, the proposed limit for OTA remains high and requires a
revision. Also, limits for OTA in cereal products, beverages, and foods destined for children and
babies etc. should be introduced before the final adoption of national regulation for mycotoxins
in Morocco.
6. Conclusions and Perspectives
The occurrence of OTA in Moroccan foods as already investigated is presented in this paper. Levels
of contamination were sometimes above the MRLs set by European regulations in food [53]. As
reported, the Moroccan population could be exposed to risks of this toxin especially from cereals
(wheat, corn, barley and rice), dried fruits and cereal products, etc. This situation should spur
Moroccan authorities to devise prevention measures and set programs for surveillance of OTA in food.
Nowadays, more than two million young people of both genders in Morocco are suffering from kidney
problems (nephropathies) and the etiology of the disease is not well known; special attention should be
given to the prevalence of OTA in foods most consumed in the country. Investigation of the
implication of OTA in nephropathy cases is an urgency of public health by assessment of the exposure
of patients and healthy people to OTA.
Finally, because agricultural products constitute the most of exchanges between Morocco and its
neighbors (EU countries), the Moroccan project for mycotoxin regulations needs to be harmonized
with EU regulations especially for limits of OTA to protect both national and foreign consumers.
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... In Morocco, several studies have reported the occurrence of OTA in various food products including cereals and their derivatives [25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32]. Morocco's food consumption model is still largely dominated by cereals, mainly soft wheat. ...
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The present study aims to compare ochratoxin A (OTA) exposure through the intake of three cereal derivative products (bread, pasta and semolina) in two different Moroccan climatic regions (littoral and continental). OTA weekly intakes from cereal products were calculated using a deterministic approach for each region. Results showed a statistically significant difference (p < 0.05) of OTA exposure between the two regions. Indeed, the median OTA exposure was estimated at 48.97 ng/kg b.w./week in the littoral region, while it was estimated at 6.36 ng/kg b.w./week in the continental region. The probabilistic approach showed that, due to uncertainties, the 95th percentile of weekly OTA exposure associated with the three cereal products ranged from 66.18 to 137.79 (95% CI) with a median of 97.44 ng/kg body weight (b.w.)/week. Compared to the threshold of 100 ng/kg b.w./week, 95% of the cumulative distributions predicted an exceedance frequency between 0.42 and 17.30% (95% CI), with an exceedance frequency median of 4.43%. Results showed that cereal derivatives constitute an important vector of OTA exposure and cause a significant exceedance of toxicological reference value among large consumers in the littoral region, which suggests the urgency of reconsidering the maximum regulatory limit (MRL) set for OTA (3 µg/kg) in cereal derivatives by Moroccan authorities.
... An adult person consumes on average 443.84 g of cereals and their derivatives per day (HCP, 2018) mainly in the form of bread. The presence of OTA in cereals and cereal based products from Morocco was already reported (Tantaoui-Elaraki, Riba, Oueslati, & Zinedine, 2018;Zinedine, 2010;Zinedine, Juan, Idrissi, & Mañes, 2007;Zinedine & Mañes, 2009). However, few studies have been undertaken to assess the risk of OTA in Moroccan population. ...
Previous studies reported the contamination of cereals products with OTA in Morocco. Given bread, pasta and semolina are staple consumed food in the country, this study aims to assess the OTA exposure levels for the adult consumers in the country through cereal derivatives intake, by using a deterministic model based on the crossover of consumption and contamination data of 457 cereals products samples. The study also set out to determine under what conditions the OTA contributions from these 3 cereal derivatives alone were enough to cause a real public health problem in the country. The Estimated Weekly Intakes EWI (ng/kg b.w./week), was used as an indicator of exposure for each cereal derivative. The global exposure (Total EWI) was determined by the summation of the EWI obtained for each cereal derivative for different consumers groups and at different OTA levels and nine scenarios were elaborated. Results showed that the total average OTA intake from the three cereal derivatives was estimated at 13.5 ng/kg b.w./week. Despite its low contamination levels, bread has been shown to be the main vector of exposure to OTA because of the high consumption levels by Moroccan adults. Its contribution to the total OTA intake was between 81 and 84% depending on the scenario. The contribution of the other investigated cereal products to total OTA intake seems to be modest and does not exceed 10% and 7% for semolina and pasta, respectively. The predominance of cereal derivatives in Moroccan food thus constitutes a potential risk factor for OTA exposure. Indeed, the risk of occurrence of potential adverse effects of OTA is real in three scenarios discussed in the study since the PTWI established by JECFA (100 ng/kg b.w./week) was been exceeded. Moreover, the Maximum limit (3 ng/g) set by Moroccan regulations in 2016, seems to be less protective for the Moroccan consumers compared to other countries due to the high consumption level of cereal products. This situation is likely to cause a public health problem by the occurrence of specific pathologies at highly OTA exposed adults, especially high bread consumers.
... Aspergillus toxins, Penicillium toxins 10 . The major mycotoxins are Aflatoxins (AFs) 11,12 , Zearalenone (ZEN) 13 and Ochratoxins (OT) 14 . After extensive investigation into the deaths, a link was observed that the feed had come from the same shipment of peanut meal from Brazil (Daly, 2000) 15 which had become moldy during transport. ...
The present study was conducted to detect aflatoxins, namely B1, B2 (aflatoxins produce blue colour), G1, G2 (aflatoxins produce green colour) and AFM (aflatoxins in milk) in milk, egg, banana and onion collected from three different locations (Bahri, Omdurman and Khartoum) in Khartoum State, Sudan. The result showed that a high level of AFB1 was detected in onion obtained from all locations in Khartoum State. A small amount of AFB2 was detected in egg and banana obtained from the locations. The results showed that all foodstuffs are free from AFG1 and AFG2 but a high level of AFM was detected in milk obtained from all locations in Khartoum State. The results obtained indicated that the presence of such aflatoxins in some of these products may represent a risk to the consumer; therefore it is necessary to know the reasons that led to their spread.
Ochratoxin A (OTA), one of the major food contaminating mycotoxins, has been reported to cause renal fibrosis through pyroptosis, but the detailed mechanism of its nephrotoxicity remains to be further investigated. Autophagy can be seen in the physiological and pathological processes of the body, and whether its role is positive or negative has not been fully elucidated. The aim of this paper was to explore the role of autophagic-inflammasomal pathway on pyroptosis caused by low levels of OTA in vitro. The results showed that OTA dose-dependently decreased cell viability in PK-15 cells and the half-maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) was 5.9 µM. OTA could significantly increase pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-18, IL-6) expression, induced pyroptosis and NLRP3 inflammasome formation at 1.0–4.0 µM for 48 h according to the results of qPCR, Western blotting, Immunofluorescence staining and morphologic observation. But MCC950 (an inhibitor of NLRP3) treatment or caspase-1 (sicaspase-1) knockdown could restore these changes. Additionally, we further found that reactive oxygen species (ROS) contributed to OTA-induced NLRP3 inflammasome and pyroptosis in PK-15 cells as indicated by Western blotting and immunofluorescence. Besides, we indicated that OTA induced autophagy via AKT/mTOR signaling pathway. And 3-MA (an inhibitor of autophagy) treatment or ATG5 (siATG5) knockdown enhanced ROS levels and NLRP3 inflammasome formation exposed to OTA. Taken together, our results elaborated that ROS/NLRP3-inlflammasome-mediated pyroptosis could be involved in the low levels of OTA-induced nephrotoxicity, which was negatively regulated by autophagy.
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Aromatic and medicinal plants (AMPs), as herbal material, are subjected to contamination by various mycotoxin-producing fungi, either free and conjugated. Such a problem is associated with poor storage practices, and lack of adopting good agricultural practices and good harvesting practices. Nevertheless, AMPs are poorly investigated. The purpose of this study was to investigate the co-occurrence of 15 mycotoxins (four aflatoxins (AFB1, AFB2, AFG1, and AFG2), ochratoxin A (OTA), beauvericin (BEA), four enniatins (ENA, ENA1, ENB, and ENB1), zearalenone (ZEN), alternariol (AOH), tentoxin (TENT), T-2, and HT-2 toxins) in 40 samples of AMPs frequently consumed in Morocco by using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. Evaluation of conjugated mycotoxins and their identification using liquid chromatography coupled to time-of-flight mass spectrometry with ion mass exact was also carried out. Results showed that 90% of the analyzed samples presented at least one mycotoxin, and 52% presented co-occurrence of them. Mycotoxins detected were: AOH (85%), ZEN (27.5%), β-ZEL (22%), AFG1 (17.5%), TENT (17.5%), ENB (10%), AFG2 (7.5%), α-ZEL (5%), ENA1 (2.5%), and HT-2 (2.5%), while the conjugated mycotoxins were ZEN-14-Glc (11%) and ZEN-14-Sulf (9%). The highest observed level was for AOH, with 309 ng/g. Ten samples exceeded the recommended levels set by the European Pharmacopoeia for AF mycotoxins in plant material (4 ng/g), and three samples exceeded the maximum limits for AFs (10 ng/g) in species established by the European Commission. Although the co-occurrence of several mycotoxins in AMP samples was observed, the dietary exposure assessment showed that the intake of mycotoxins through the consumption of AMP beverages does not represent a risk for the population.
The aim of this study was to assess the contamination of breast milk by aflatoxin M1 among nursing mothers from Rabat, Morocco, and to explore its association with several maternal parameters and dietary habits. In addition, the health risk assessment of the newborns by the estimation of the daily intake. A competitive Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay method was used for the analysis of aflatoxin M1 in breast milk samples. Analytical results indicate that out of 82 total samples, 43 samples (52.4%) of milk were positive. Aflatoxin M1 levels ranged from undetectable to 13.33 ng/L, while the mean level was 5.75 ± 3.44 ng/L. Besides, several factors and foodstuffs seem to increase the level of AFM1 in breast milk. As regards the estimated daily intake of aflatoxin M1, it varies between immeasurable and a maximum of 1.16 ng/ The degree of exposure to AFB1 and the levels of its metabolite AFM1 in breast milk were low, compared to some studies from other countries. Further investigations and periodic monitoring programs are recommended in large samples and in many cities of Morocco to assess the level of exposure of the Moroccan population.
The aim of the present study is to evaluate the level of contamination of breast milk (BM) by ochratoxin A, among Moroccan lactating mothers in the city of Rabat, and to identify the associated factors of exposure, also to estimate the degree of exposure of the breastfeed infant. The analysis of ochratoxin A (OTA) was accomplished by ELISA method on 82 colostrum samples. OTA was detectable (>0.08 ng/mL) in 55% of samples with a maximum concentration of 10.04 ng/mL, and the levels exceeded 0.5 ng /mL in 50 % of the samples. In addition, several factors and dietary habits affect significantly the level of OTA in the analyzed samples of breast milk including, the consumption of industrial dairy products, the frequency of consumption of canned foods, dried fruits and legumes, also the period of breast milk collection. Besides, OTA was higher than the tolerable daily intake for 49% newborns. However, these results need to be confirmed by multicenter studies to more broadly estimate the levels of exposition of Moroccan population to OTA. Furthermore, awareness campaigns are recommended to inform the public, especially pregnant women and lactating women about appropriate preventive measures to limit exposure to this mycotoxin.
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The fungal genus Aspergillus was established in 1729, and includes species that are adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions. The genus Aspergillus is among the most abundant and widely distributed organisms on earth, and at the moment comprises 339 known species. Although they are not considered to be major cause of plant diseases, Aspergillus species are responsible for several disorders in various plants and plant products, especially as opportunistic storage molds. The notable consequence of their presence is contamination of foods and feeds by mycotoxins, among which the most important are aflatoxins, sterigmatocystin, ochratoxins, fumonisins, patulin, gliotoxin and cyclopiazonic acid. Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites of fungi. Species assigned to the Aspergillus genus produce a wide range of mycotoxins which can contaminate several agricultural products, and cause various human and animal diseases. Mycotoxins are carcinogenic, nephrotoxic, teratogenic, and immunotoxic in rats and possibly in humans. Mycotoxins might play a role in terms of economic and safe farming procedure. The effects of mycotoxins on insects have already been addressed by several research groups 50 years ago. Mycotoxins can cause toxicity to insects, nematodes including insecticidal effects and developmental delay.
Tea is a popular beverage known worldwide with health benefits for consumers. It was considered safe and healthy for centuries. However, recent investigations reported that herbal tea might be contaminated by fungi and mycotoxins. The purpose of this study was to assess, for the first time, the levels of aflatoxins (AFs) in 129 herbal green tea samples obtained from retail shops and supermarkets in three Moroccan areas (El Jadida, Kénitra and Meknès). Aflatoxins were quantified by liquid chromatography coupled to a fluorescence detector and the confirmation of the suspected samples was done by LC-MS/MS. Analytical results indicate that out of 129 total samples, 76 samples (58.9%) were found to be contaminated with AFs. In positive samples, AFB1 levels ranged from 1.8 to 6.7 ng/g in tea samples from Meknès, and from 4.4 to 41.8 ng/g in those from Kénitra. The maximum recorded AFB1 level was 41.8 ng/g, while the maximum total AFs amount was 116.2 ng/g. This study revealed also that 38 (29.5%) and 12 (9.3%) out of 129 total samples exceeded the levels of 10 ng/g and 5 ng/g, which are the maximum levels set by Moroccan regulations of total AFs and AFB1 in some spices and aromatic plants, respectively.
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Dans le cadre d'une campagne de contrôle de la contamination des denrées alimentaires distribuées au Maroc, 336 échantillons ont été analysés durant la période 1991-92. Ces échantillons se répartissaient en 286 de céréales et son, 44 de raisins secs et 6 d'arachides. L'aflatoxine a été recherchée dans tous les échantillons, alors que 219 d'entre eux, tous de céréales et son, étaient également analysés pour la recherche de l'ochratoxine A et de la zéaralénone. Un échantillon de maïs sur 50 analysés s'est révélé contaminé par l'aflatoxine BI (18 J.1g/kg), et un sur 6 d'arachides était fortement pollué (820 J.1g/kg d'aflatoxines BI' B2 , GI et G2). D'autre part, 3 échantillons d'orge sur 75 contenaient de faibles teneurs en ochratoxine A (1,13 à 2,83 J.1g/kg). Ces résultats montrent l'innocuité des céréales distribuées au Maroc, notamment le blé, ainsi que des raisins secs, en ce qui concerne la contamination par les mycotoxines recherchées. Mycotoxins survey in foodstuffs distributed in Morocco As a part of a broad survey on the contamination of food commodities distributed in Morocco, 336 samples were analysed within 1991-92. These included 286 cereal grains and barn, 44 raisin, and 6 peanut samples. Aflatoxins were looked for in aIl of the salaples, while 219 samples of cereal grains and barn were also investigated for ochratoxin A and zearalenone. One corn sample out of50 was contaminated with aflatoxin BI (18 J.1g/kg), and one of peanuts out of 6 contained 820 J.1g/kg of total aflatoxins BI' B2, GI and G2• Also 3 samples ofbarley out 75 of analysed turned out to be contaminated with sm aIl amounts of ochratoxin A (1.13 -2.83 J.1g/kg). These results show the innocuity of cereal grains in Morocco, especially wheat, regarding the contamination with the mycotoxins covered by this study.
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An occurrence of the toxigenic fungi producing aflatoxins and ochratoxin A in food was investigated in the study ("MYCOMON") in years 1999-2001. Twenty five commodities were purchased from retail in twelve collection places in the Czech Republic (300 food samples together). The presence of potentially toxigenic fungiAspergillus flavus was observed in 28% of the sampled food (black pepper, black tea, caraway seeds, fine flour, fruit tea, oat flakes) in the year 1999, in 17% of the sampled food (black pepper, black tea, caraway seeds, fine flour, fruit tea, oat flakes) in the year 2000 and in 18% of the sampled food (black pepper, black tea, caraway seeds, fine flour, fruit tea, oat flakes) in the year 2001.Aspergillus tamarii (aflatoxins producer) was found in black pepper samples (25%) in year 1999, in black pepper samples and black tea (25%) in year 2000 and in black pepper samples and black tea (21%) in year 2001.Aspergillus parasiticus andAspergillus nomius were not isolated.Aspergillus sectionNigri (potential producer of ochratoxin A) was detected in some food (black pepper, black tea, caraway seeds, fine flour, fruit tea, raisins, sweet red pepper).Penicillium verrucosum and Aspergillus ochraceus were not isolated from the tested food.
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Fungi cause human illness in different ways. Mycoses are the best-known diseases of fungal etiology, but toxic secondary metabolites produced by saprophytic species are also an important health hazard. The term mycotoxin is an artificial rubric used to describe pharmacologically active mold metabolites characterized by vertebrate toxicity. They fall into several chemically unrelated classes, are produced in a strain-specific way, and elicit some complicated and overlapping toxigenic activities in sensitive species that include carcinogenicity, inhibition of protein synthesis, immunosuppression, dermal irritation, and other metabolic perturbations. Mycotoxins usually enter the body via ingestion of contaminated foods, but inhalation of toxigenic spores and direct dermal contact are also important routes. It is difficult to prove that a disease is a mycotoxicosis. Molds may be present without producing any toxin. Thus, the demonstration of mold contamination is not the same thing as the demonstration of mycotoxin contamination. Moreover, even when mycotoxins are detected, it is not easy to show that they are the etiological agents in a given veterinary or human health problem. Nevertheless, there is sufficient evidence from animal models and human epidemiological data to conclude that mycotoxins pose an important danger to human and animal health, albeit one that is hard to pin down. The incidence of mycotoxicoses may be more common than suspected. It is easy to attribute the symptoms of acute mycotoxin poisoning to other causes; the opposite is true of etiology. It is not easy to prove that cancer and other chronic conditions are caused by mycotoxin exposure. In summary, in the absence of appropriate investigative criteria and reliable laboratory tests, the mycotoxicoses will remain diagnostically daunting diseases.
Ochratoxin A (OTA) is a para-chlorophenolic mycotoxin produced by strains of Aspergillus and Penicillium that is widely found as a contaminant of improperly stored food products. The toxin is a potent renal carcinogen in rats, especially male, and has an implicated role in the etiology of Balkan endemic nephropathy and its associated urinary tract tumours. Although the mechanism of OTA-mediated tumour formation is not fully understood, and represents a hotly debated topic, bioactivation and subsequent DNA adduction through covalent attachment of electrophilic OTA species remains a viable mechanism for OTA-mediated carcinogenesis. In this paper we outline the established chemistry for the bioactivation of chlorophenol carcinogens and demonstrate how this chemistry relates to the bioactivation of OTA. From this basis it is predicted that OTA will form a benzoquinone electrophile following activation by cytochrome P450 enzymes and radical species following activation by enzymes with peroxidase activities. These electrophiles react preferentially with deoxyguanosine (dG) to form benzetheno adducts and C8-dG adducts, respectively. Analysis of OTA-mediated DNA adduction using the (32)P-postlabelling method correlates with OTA chemistry and adduct spots derived from the quinone electrophile are generated following activation by cytochrome P450, while a C8-OTA adduct is formed following activation of OTA by peroxidase enzymes. These same adduct spots are also produced in animal (rat and pig) and human tumoral kidney tissue. This model for OTA-mediated carcinogenesis is consistent with established structure-activity relationships for covalent attachment of OTA analogues and OTA toxicity. The model also provides a rationale for the synergistic effect observed for OTA in the presence of the mycotoxin citrinin and for the sexual differences observed in rat carcinogenesis where the male is particularly susceptible to OTA-mediated tumour formation.
Ochratoxin A (OTA) produced by Aspergillus and Penicillium genera contaminates a diversity of foods in the normal diet, including cereals and cereal-made foods, dned fruits, beans, cocoa, coffee, beer, wine (red essentially) and foodstuffs of animal ongin mainly poultry eggs, pork and milk including human breast milk. OTA is nephrotoxic to all animal species studied so far and most likely to humans. who show the longest half-life time for elimination of this toxin among all species examined. Among other toxic effects OTA IS teratogenic, immunotoxic, genotoxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic, all of which lead to life-threatening pathologies. Thus. OTA acts through several molecular pathways leading to different chronic toxic lesions To assess OTA in human blood, the immunoaffinity column and ELISA techniques have recently been emerging along with HPLC for separation and fluorimetnc quantification. They should be followed by confirmation with one or two derivatives of OTA which have a profile shift on the chromatogram. For a complete diagnosis of human ochratoxicosis it is necessary to identify the origin of the toxin to relate its presence in human blood with at least a pathology one can cure or prevent. This is still a very difficult task. since humans may be exposed to several toxins simultaneously with synergistic or antagonistic effects. Also, conditions of exposure can vary from place to place or individual to individual whether the route of administration is via digestive tract or the respiratory system. This difficult situation is somehow worse in developing countries, where in the early eighties several groups initiated investigations on the prevalence of OTA in human blood, followed by or directly combined with a food survey for OTA in commodities. Interestingly, OTA is found In human blood everywhere. However, the prevalence is different, as well as the OTA blood levels, due to the diversity of health and economic situations, and to preventive measures that have been implemented. Important factors affecting body burdens and pathologies include the quality of the diet in providing antioxidants, vitamins, and amino acids, such as phenylalanine in the sweetener Aspartame. To clarify the situation with human ochratoxicosis several studies and reports will be presented and discussed.
The occurrence of Aspergillus section Nigri on certain varieties of grapes used for dried vine fruit (and especially on Sultana), was surveyed extensively during three harvest seasons (1998, 1999 and 2000). Members of Aspergillus section Nigri were enumerated and identified in a total of 806 samples comprising both fresh fruit as well as partially-dried and fully-dried grapes. Aspergillus aculeatus, A. carbonarius and A. niger were commonly isolated. Of those three species, A. niger showed the highest optimum temperature for growth, as well as highest thermal tolerance. That combination of properties probably accounts for the occurrence of A. niger in over 80% of fruit samples in all three seasons. A. carbonarius was also prevalent on fruit surveyed for fungal rots. Severity of infection with this group of fungi was highest in the seasons when grape berries were rain-damaged. Typically, the Aspergillus count increased during the initial stages of drying. Growth of these moulds while grapes are either still on the vine or during drying carries important implications for human consumption due to the potential for certain strains of these fungi to produce ochratoxin A. Fungal cultures on coconut cream agar plates were screened for production of ochratoxin A via fluorescence emission under UV light. Such fluorescence was observed in all isolates of A. carbonarius, but was not observed in any isolates of either A. aculeatus or A. niger.