The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published a scientific opinion on public health risks related to the presence of ochratoxin A (OTA) in food. OTA is a mycotoxin naturally produced by molds that can be found in a variety of foodstuffs, including cereals, preserved meats, fresh and dried fruit, and cheese.

New data that have become available since the last assessment in 2006 suggest that OTA can be genotoxic by directly damaging the DNA. Experts also confirmed that it can be carcinogenic to the kidney. Therefore, experts calculated a margin of exposure (MOE). This is a tool used by risk assessors to consider possible safety concerns arising from the presence in food and feed of substances that are both genotoxic and carcinogenic.

In its previous opinion, the EFSA established a tolerable weekly intake (TWI) based on toxicity and carcinogenicity to the kidney. Experts have now used a more conservative approach by calculating MOE and concluded that there is a health concern for most consumer groups. The EFSA’s scientific advice will inform the European Commission in the ongoing discussion on maximum levels of OTA in foodstuffs.

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