2012-2014 Deoxynivalenol in Selected Foods

Executive Summary

The Food Safety Action Plan (FSAP) aims to modernize and enhance Canada's food safety system. As part of the FSAP enhanced surveillance initiative, targeted surveys are used to examine various foods for specific hazards.

This targeted survey focused on a natural toxin, deoxynivalenol (DON), which can contaminate grains in the field. DON is not carcinogenic, but exposure to very high levels may cause gastrointestinal, immunosuppressive and developmental effects in various animal species. As DON is resistant to heat, finished foods may still contain detectable levels of DON despite being substantially processed.

The main objectives of this survey were to:

  • establish baseline surveillance data for DON levels in infant formula, dried fruit, soy products, and grain-based products (wheat products, corn products, oat products, milled products of less commonly consumed grains, infant cereals, breakfast cereals, breads, baked goods and crackers); and
  • compare the prevalence of DON in infant formula, dried fruit, and grain products found in 2012-2014 with the prevalence found in the previous CFIA DON targeted surveys, where possible.

A total of 3630 samples were analyzed for the presence of DON. These samples included 386 assorted foods (dried fruit and soy products), 543 infant foods (cereal and formula), 1284 milled grain products and 1417 processed grain-based products. Twenty-three percent of the samples tested for DON did not contain detectable levels. The samples with detectable levels of DON were from all types of products sampled in this survey. DON levels ranged from the method reporting limit of 1 part-per-billion (ppb) to a maximum of 4380 ppb. There are no Canadian maximum levels established for DON in finished products, so compliance to a numeric standard could not be evaluated.

All the data generated were shared with Health Canada's Bureau of Chemical Safety for use in performing human health risk assessments. Health Canada's Bureau of Chemical Safety concluded that, overdid not pose a all, the levels of DON found in the foods included in this survey were low and that short-term exposure to elevated levels of DON in the limited number of samples that were identified in this survey are not expected to pose a safety concern. No product recalls were warranted given the lack of health concern.

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