What is the news?
The news mentions about the impact of zearalenone in cereals.
What is zearalenone?
- Zearalenone is a fungal toxin infesting cereals such as wheat, maize and barley.
- It attacks crops while they are growing, but can also develop when cereals are stored without being dried fully.
- The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India does not impose maximum limits for zearalenone, though the European Union (EU) does.
- Twenty-four of the U.P. samples exceeded the EU regulatory limits of 100-200 mcg/kg of cereals.
- Based on this, the authors say India should set its limits in cereals.
- India regulates the levels of some of these, including aflatoxin, deoxynivalenol, ergot and patulin.
- The first three infest cereals, while patulin is found in apples.
- Zearalenone behaves like oestrogen, the female sex hormone, and could cause endocrine disturbances in humans.
- Even animals are impacted by the toxin and this is why countries like Brazil regulate zearalenone levels in animal feed. However, the exact metabolism of the toxin is not much known in humans but it is dangerous to consume high levels of the toxin.
- In 2014, a Tunisian case-control study found a correlation between a zearalenone metabolite in urine and breast-cancer risk in women. But other studies did not find similar links.
- Meanwhile, chronic aflatoxin consumption has been shown to cause liver cancer.
Research on Zearalenone :
- The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies aflatoxin as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning there is enough evidence for its carcinogenicity.
- In zearalenone’s case, there is no strong evidence of toxicity in humans so far, though several research groups are investigating.
- As a result, the IARC classifies zearalenone as a Group 3 carcinogen, which means evidence is not sufficient for an evaluation yet.
- Its nasty effects in animals, such as pigs, are documented. When fed with mouldy corn, pigs develop inflamed vaginas, infertility and other symptoms.
- This is why countries like Brazil regulate zearalenone levels in animal feed. In humans, the data are fuzzier. It is probably dangerous to humans too, but to be certain, we need to know how much humans consume, how it is metabolised, and how exposure is correlated with disease.
- In 2014, a Tunisian case-control study found a correlation between a zearalenone metabolite in urine and breast-cancer risk in women.
- More data are needed from cereals in other States, and from other storage conditions, before India decides to set limits.
- Besides ,this month, a Journal of Food Science study detected the toxin in wheat, rice, corn and oats from markets in Uttar Pradesh.
- The study, by researchers from Lucknow’s Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR), found the substance in 70 of the 117 samples tested.
- The paper is an excellent starting point, since nothing was known about the chemical in India so far.