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Food Safety Focus (160th Issue, November 2019) – Food Incident Highlight

Aflatoxins and Ochratoxin A in Spices

Last month, a local organisation announced its own study results of mycotoxins in dried spices. Some samples were found to have aflatoxins and ochratoxin A. Upon referral, follow-up actions taken by the Centre for Food Safety revealed that one sample contained aflatoxins at a level exceeding the legal standard. The vendor was instructed to stop sale of the affected product. Enhanced surveillance was also conducted on spices for mycotoxins, and all test results were found satisfactory.

Aflatoxins and ochratoxin A are classified as Group I and Group 2B carcinogens respectively by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which respectively mean that they are carcinogenic and possibly carcinogenic to humans. However, in view of the low consumption of spices in our local population, aflatoxins and ochratoxin A from spices are unlikely to pose a health concern.

To reduce the contamination by mycotoxins, the public is advised to store food properly (e.g. stored in a cool, dry and well-ventilated place). The trade has to observe Good Manufacturing Practice and to source food and ingredients from reliable suppliers.