Facilities that process oats should be more closely monitored for potential mold contamination, according to researchers from the University of Idaho.
Food scientists Hyun Jung Lee and Dojin Ryu reported that oat-based breakfast cereals were more likely than other cereals to contain elevated levels of ochratoxin A, a common mold-related toxin linked to kidney cancer in animal studies.
Lee and Ryu tested nearly 500 samples of breakfast cereal purchased from U.S. stores during a two-year period. Although most fell below the limit for ochratoxin A established by the European Union, 8 percent of oat-based cereals had levels above the EU threshold.
The U.S. does not currently regulate the toxin, but the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies it as a possible human carcinogen. Previous studies found ochratoxin A in other food products such as pork, dried fruits, wine and coffee.
"On the basis of the incidence and concentration of OTA, oats and oat-based products may need greater attention in further surveillance programs and development of intervention strategies to reduce health risks in consumers," according to the abstract of the report in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.