Government limits on mold toxins present naturally in grain crops should be expanded to include so-called “masked mycotoxins” that change from harmless to potentially harmful forms in the body, according to a new study in the American Chemical Society’s journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.
Chiara Dall’Asta and colleagues explain that molds growing naturally on wheat, corn and other plants produce toxic substances termed mycotoxins.
Plants protect themselves by binding or “conjugating” glucose, sulfur or other substances to the mycotoxin, producing conjugated mycotoxins that are not harmful and not included in current safety regulations.
The new study focused on two of the most widespread mycotoxin contaminants of grain crops — deoxynivalenol (DON) and zearalenone (ZEN).
The authors say their results show, for the first time, that bacteria present in the large intestine in people deconjugate or “unmask” DON and ZEN, releasing the original toxic forms.