Essential Food Safety: Mycotoxin

Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals naturally produced by fungi, or mould, that are estimated to contaminate some 25% of the world’s crops. Damp climates, insect damage, and poor food storage that facilitate the growth of mould increase the likelihood and levels of mycotoxin contamination.

These contaminations represent a real threat to consumer health. We have seen efforts (notably by France) to increase allowable thresholds for mycotoxin contamination, which could pose additional risk to consumers. Advocating for higher mycotoxin thresholds comes together with an increased public scepticism towards crop protection (i.e. fungicides), which is used to mitigate the risk of these toxins. The Consumer Choice Center points out that any regulatory changes in the legality of fungicide levels need to be backed up by scientific evidence and require the availability of sound alternatives to traditional crop protection methods such as genome-editing.

Since its creation in 2017, the Consumer Choice Center has had the ambition of fostering more free, responsible, and vocal consumers. We also regard it as our mission to bring attention to those issues that don’t find as much coverage. For example, we have delivered more focus on the locust plague that hit Africa earlier this year, and have advocated for innovation-focused biotech solutions. We also believe that favouring modern technology such as gene-editing is key to an agricultural and medical revolution that will prolong and better the lives of patients and consumers.In this spirit, we want to attract more attention to the issue of mycotoxin poisoning in Europe, which we see as an underreported food safety problem. Tens of thousands of liver cancer deaths and billions of dollars in market losses can be attributed to mycotoxin contamination annually. However, the decisions and positions of some regulators and policy-makers has put this threat to the forefront of our concerns in the realm of agriculture. We believe that a move away from modern agricultural technology will have mycotoxins poisoning re-emerge as one of the most severe concerns for food safety in Europe.

This policy note will explain what mycotoxins are, and what we believe needs to be done to prevent their spread.

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