Submitted to: World Mycotoxin Journal
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: September 11, 2010
Publication Date: November 1, 2010
Citation: Maragos, C.M. 2010. Zearalenone occurrence and human exposure. World Mycotoxin Journal. 3(4):369-383. DOI: 10.3920/wmj2010.1240. Interpretive Summary: This review summarizes recent data on the occurrence of the estrogenic mycotoxin zearalenone (ZON) in commodities and human foods, worldwide. The intake data is compared to published estimates of tolerable daily intakes, in order to gauge the potential impact of zearalenone on human health. There are substantial data on intake of ZON in certain parts of the world, particularly in Europe and Canada. For those areas the estimated intakes are, on average, below the levels considered tolerable (safe). The situation may be different in populations that consume large amounts of foods that are susceptible to contamination, or in instances where contamination is unusually high. For much of the rest of the world this type of data is lacking, and for those regions the relevance of ZON to human health remains to be determined.
Technical Abstract: Among the mycotoxins zearalenone (ZON) is of interest because of the estrogenic effects that it, and certain of its metabolites possess. The fungi that produce ZON are found worldwide, particularly in cereal grains and derived products. This has prompted many surveys to detect these compounds in commodities and foods. As a result, the widespread occurrence of ZON in foods is well documented. Previous summaries including extensive reports by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the European Commission’s Scientific Cooperation on Questions Relating to Food (SCOOP), and others, have provided significant information on the occurrence of ZON in commodities and foods. Publication of occurrence data has continued at a rapid pace, and certain of that data, as well as highlights from previous intake and exposure assessments, are summarized herein. Comparing estimates of intake (exposure) with previous estimates of tolerable daily intakes, suggests that, for many of the countries where exposure assessments have been done, the populations are exposed to levels that would be considered safe. The situation may be different in populations that consume large quantities of foods that are susceptible to contamination, or in instances where contamination is atypically high. For much of the world estimates of exposure have not been reported, meaning that for much of the world, the true extent of the relevance of ZON to human health remains uncharacterized.