Determination of multiple fungal contaminants in food and feed matrices

Approximately 300-400 compounds are currently recognised as mycotoxins. Despite that, most analytical methods focus on those fungal metabolites that are addressed by legislation and some of their derivatives, which make up approximately two dozens of compounds. In contrast to that, data about the occurrence of the remaining metabolites ranges from scarce to non-existent. In our research group, we use the latest generation of fast-scanning tandem mass spectrometers to create a quantitative LC-MS/MS protocol for the simultaneous determination of several hundred fungal metabolites in a single chromatographic run. In several publications we have proved that the instruments´ sensitivity, selectivity and robustness allow the accurate determination of low µg/kg concentrations of the target substances even in crude extracts of complex matrices. Based on the data we have obtained so far, it can be concluded that conventional methods only cover a small range of the human exposure to fungal metabolites in foodstuffs. In cereals from countries with a moderate climate, “emerging” Fusarium metabolites such as enniatins, aurofusarin, apicidin, etc. are at least as prevalent as trichothecenes and zearalenone (which are addressed by legislation). In addition, consumers may be exposed to considerable concentrations of various Penicillium metabolites through the consumption of spoiled food (a visible inspection is not always feasible, e.g. use of mouldy tomatoes in ketchup). In tropical countries, aflatoxins (which include the most potent naturally occurring carcinogen Aflatoxin B1) and fumonisins are the most prevalent substance class, but aflatoxin bioprecursors (such as versicolorin C and averufin) and several other substances such as the Fusarium metabolites moniliformin, equisetin and fusaric acid might play a role as well. In addition to these investigations, we develop methods for mycotoxin biomarkers in urine in order to evaluate the actual individual exposure.