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Ochratoxine (OTA)

OTA - CAS N° [303-47-9]
- empirical formula : C20H18O6NCl
- molecular weight : 403.81 amu
- white crystals (mp = 169°C)

- UV absorption : 213 (ε = 36800), 333 nm (ε = 6400 in ethanol)
331nm (ε = 5979 in acetonitrile)
- Fluorescence λex = 333 nm, λem = 428 nm (in ethanol)

- LD50 (bw rats) = 20 mg/kg rat oral, 12.75 mg/kg rat i.v., 12.6 mg/kg rat i.p.
- TDI = 1.5-4.2 ng/kg bw


Ochratoxin A is produced by Penicillium verrucosum, by Aspergillus ochraceus and several related Aspergillus species.
So far P.verrucosum grows at low temperature, it can be found in all temperate regions. More this mould can also grows at water activity as low as 0.8 and is the principal source of OTA found in cereals and cereal products in Europe and Canada.

Ochratoxin (OTA)A.ochraceus grows at moderately high temperature and under a water activity above 0.8. So OTA can be found in a wide range of stored products as cereals, but also in fruits during sun-drying including coffee beans. Post-harvested OTA formation is regarded as a predominant factor in the contamination of insufficiently dried cereal and cereal products.


A.carbonarius grows at high temperatures on maturing fruits as grapes or coffee bones. His black spores are resistant to sunlight and survive sun drying. It is a source of OTA in fruits as fresh grapes, dried vine fruits and of course wine.


Compared to the pre-harvested formation, production of OTA during storage is regarded as a predominant factor in the contamination of insufficiently dried starch-rich foodstuffs.


Because it was necessary to feed cattle for four days with contaminated grains at 1.66 mg OTA/kg bw to detect any residues of OTA in milk, OTA levels commonly found in contaminated feeds do not represent a health risk to these animals. Due to his high in-vivo stability, carry-over of OTA from contaminated feed into blood, kidneys and muscles can occur mainly for animals belonging to the monogastric livestock showing nephropathy (mainly porks).


In all mammalian tested, kidneys are the major target for the toxicity of OTA. Since the half life time in humans is 8-12 times longer than in rats, risk assessment is important. The mycotoxin is not water soluble and is not readily excreted, accumulation in fatty tissues occurs. Elevated exposure to OTA should also be associated with human nephropathies as in the Balkans (Balkan endemic nephropathy).

Ochratoxin (OTA)


Cereal and cereal products are the main contributors to OTA intake in Europe. Contamination of the food chain may be prevented by feeding animals on an OTA free died for a period of at least four weeks before slaughter.


Once OTA was formed in food, this mycotoxin survives most food processing stages (cooking, roasting, fermenting) to a high appreciable level. Incomplete degradation of OTA was observed even at 250°C. Losses (of about 20%) are observed by frying of muscular tissues but not of adipose tissues.

NORMS AND LEGISLATION (maximal levels allowed in feed and food) :

Maximum levels in foodstuffs: wheat, durum wheat, oats, barley, vine fruits, coffee, baby food...
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COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 123/2005 of 26 January 2005 amending Regulation (EC) No 466/2001 as regards ochratoxin A

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Commission directive 2005/5/EC amending directive 2002/26/EC as regards sampling methods of analysis for the official control of the levels of ochratoxin A in certain foodstuffs

Maximum levels in animal feed
COMMISSION RECOMMENDATION (2006/576/EC) of 17 August 2006 on the presence of deoxynivalenol, zearalenone, ochratoxin A, T-2 and HT-2 and fumonisines in products intended for animal feeding

Tolerable daily intake
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Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, CODEX Committee on food additives and contaminants, Thirty-first Session,The Hague, The Netherlands, 22-26 March 1999, Position paper on ochratoxin A
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Opinion of the scientific panel on contaminants in the food chain on a request from the commission related to ochratoxin A in food, The EFSA journal 365, 1-56 (2006)


CODA-CERVA is mainly dedicated to scientific research and services in the field of food safety, public and animal health. He also provides analytical facilities for third part by the determination of Fusarium toxins in cereals and cereal products. This activity is accredited according to the European Quality norm ISO 17025.

CODA-CERVA is the Belgian Federal Reference laboratory (NRL) for mycotoxins.


As NRL, the activities of CODA-CERVA are focused on scientific research developing leading edges in order to help analytical laboratories to develop their own activities and/or to properly use commercial analytical techniques. Our main activities are :

-control and comparison of quantitative or qualitative kits for OTA determination sold on the marked. See the CODA-CERVA's report : Evaluation of immunoassay kits for ochratoxin A determination in cereals
-organisation of ring test
-education of the personnel of external laboratories and coordination between the National reference laboratory (NRL), the European reference laboratory (CEN) and the analytical laboratories, by the organization of scientific meetings about the activities done by the NRL and emerging researches.
-helping the authorities regarding new legislation and regulation about emerging mycotoxins by development of new analytical methods.



- The Operational Direction "Chemical Safety of the Food Chain" focuses his research in developing analytical methods for the determination of mycotoxins with special emphasis on mycotoxins produced during the storage of cereals as well as other toxins.


- A method was developed for the determination of OTA and potential emerging mycotoxins in stored cereals. Using this tool, the impact of grain contamination was assessed with special attention on the mycotoxigenic potential of grain dust.


- In collaboration with other research teams in Belgium, a large study devoted to the comparison of mycotoxin levels in organic and conventional foodstuffs has been carried out and additional surveys were carried out in order to further assess the level of OTA and other mycotoxins in beer.


- In collaboration with other research teams in Belgium, isolation, identification and purification of well known (e.g. OTA) and emerging mycotoxins for toxicological studies at concentrations that are plausible for the gastro-intestinal tract.


- Silages: tracking of OTA and emerging mycotoxins


- Rapid methods for the determination of OTA in Feed and Food


- transfer studies of OTA and other mycotoxins from feed to animal products (CONTEGG, MYCOTOXPLUIM)


Alfons Callebaut
Philippe Debongnie
Emmanuel Tangni
Bart Huybrechts
Jorina Geys




- Tangni E.K., Waegeneers N., Van Overmeire I, Goeyens L., Pussemier L. 2009. Mycotoxin analyses in some home produced eggs in Belgium reveal small contribution to the total daily intake. Science of the Total Environment 407:4411-4418.
- Van Overmeire, L. Pussemier, N. Waegeneers, V. Hanot, I. Windal, L. Boxus, A. Covaci, G. Eppe, M.L. Scippo, I. Sioen, M. Bilau, X. Gellynck, H. De Steur, E.K. Tangni, L. Goeyens. 2009. Assessment of the chemical contamination in home-produced eggs in Belgium: general overview of the contegg study. Science of the Total Environment 407:4403-4410..

- Aoudia N., Tangni E.K., Larondelle Y. 2008. Distribution of ochratoxin A in plasma and tissues of rats fed a naturally contaminated diet amended with micronized wheat fibres: Effectiveness of mycotoxin sequestering activity. Food and chemical Toxicology 46: 871-878.

- Harcz P, Tangni E.K., Wilmart O., Moons E., Van Peteghem C., De Saeger S., Schneider Y-J., Larondelle Y., Pussemier L. 2007. Intake of ochratoxin A and deoxynivalenol through beer consumption in Belgium. Food Additives and contaminants 24 (8): 910-916.
- Tangni E.K., Pussemier L., 2007, "Ergosterol and mycotoxins in grain dusts from fourteen Belgian cereal storages: a preliminary screening survey". Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 87 (7): 1263-1270.


- Anselme M., Tangni E.K. Pussemier L, Motte J-C, Van Hove F, Schneider Y-J, Van Peteghem C, Larondelle Y. 2006. Comparison of ochratoxin A and deoxynivalenol loads of organically and conventionally produced beers sold on the Belgian market. Food Additives and contaminants contaminants 23(9): 910-918.
- Pussemier L., Pierard, J.Y., Anselme, M., Tangni, E.K., Motte, J.C., Larondelle, Y., 2006, "Development and application of analytical methods for the determination of mycotoxins in organic and conventional wheat", Food Additives and Contaminants 23(11)1208-1218.
- Tangni E.K., Pussemier L. 2006. Ochratoxin A and citrinin loads in stored wheat grains: impact of grain dust and prediction using ergosterol measurements. Food Additives and contaminants 23(2): 181-189.

- Chandelier A., Michelet J.Y., Tangni E.K., Baert K., Moons E., Vinkx C., 2004, Mycotoxin surveys in Belgium and toxigenic Fusarium in Belgian wheat. In: Logrieco A. and Visconti A. (Editors) An overview on toxigenic fungi and mycotoxins in Europe. (pp 11-32). Kluwer Academic Publishers. Dordrecht (The Netherlands).
- Pierard, J.Y., Depasse, C., Delafortrie, A., Motte, J.C., "Multi-mycotoxin determination methodology", in "Meeting the Mycotoxin menace", Barug, D., van Egmond, H., Lopez-Garcia, R., van Osenbruggen, T. and Visconti, A. ed, Wageningen Academic Publishers, 2004, pp 255-268, ISBN-907-69982-80.

- Tangni E.K.,,Ponchaut S., Maudoux M., Rozenberg R., Larondelle Y. 2002. Ochratoxin A in domestic and imported beers in Belgium: occurrence and exposure assessment. Food Additives and Contaminants 19 (12): 1169-1179.

- Thirumala-Devi K., Mayo M.A., Reddy G., Tangni E.K., Larondelle Y., Reddy D.V.R. 2001. Occurrence of ochratoxin A in black pepper, coriander, ginger and turmeric in India. Food Additives and Contaminants 18 (9): 830-835.

- Ferrufino-Guardia E.V., Tangni E.K., Larondelle Y., Ponchaut S., 2001, Lactational transfer of ochratoxin A in rabbit fed a naturally-contaminated feed. In: Koe W., Samson, R.A., Van Egmond H.P., Gilbert J. & Sabino M. (Editors) Mycotoxins and Phycotoxins in Perspective at the turn of the millennium: Proceedings of the Xth International IUPAC symposium on mycotoxins and phycotoxins - 21-25 May 2000, Guarujá, (Brazil) pp. 173-180
- Ferrufino-Guardia E.V., Tangni E.K., Larondelle Y., Ponchaut S. 2000. Transfer of ochratoxin A during lactation : exposure of suckling via the milk of rabbit does fed a naturally-contaminated feed. Food Additives and Contaminants 17 (2): 167-175.

International Society for Mycotoxicology (ISM), Dr Angelo Visconti president), ISPRA, Bari, Italy.
FAPAS®, The Food and Environment Research Agency, Sand Hutton, York, UK, YO41 1LZ-
Institut National de Recherche Agronomique, 147 rue de l'Université 75338 Paris , France

Institut National de Recherche Agronomique, « Sécurité Alimentaire à l'INRA

BIPEA, Organizing interlaboratory comparisons tests and assistance for laboratories to manage, maintain and improve their performances, F-92230 Gennevilliers, France.