Mycotoxins in spices consumed in Russia


Spices and herbs have been used since ancient times as flavor and aroma enhancers, colorants, preservatives and traditional medicines. As many other plant products, they can be exposed to contaminants, ones of which are mycotoxins, secondary metabolites of fungi. Such contamination can occur during harvesting, processing and storage, distribution, retailing and consumer use. Although they are used and consumed in small quantities, but added to a wide variety of products, especially ready-to-eat products. So the assessment of their contamination with mycotoxins is very important.

The aim of the study was to investigate the contamination of spices and herbs with mycotoxins of fungi of the genera Aspergillus, Penicillium, Fusarium and Alternaria, as well as to assess the mycotoxins intake per person when consuming these food groups.

Material and methods. Concentration of mycotoxins in 155 samples of spices and herbs was determined by ultra high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass-spectrometric detection (UHPLC-MS/MS). The list of mycotoxins included deoxynivalenol, aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, zearalenone, T-2 toxin, fumonisins, sterigmatocistin, HT-2 toxin, diacetoxyscirpenol, enniatins, beauvericin, neosolaniol, citreoviridin, mycophenolic acid, citrinin, tentoxin, altenuene, alternariol and its monomethyl ether.

Results. Among the regulated in plant products mycotoxins in the studied samples there were found aflatoxins (B1 – in 19% of samples, from 0.4 to 48.2 µg/kg, B2 – 8%, from < limit of quantitation (LOQ) to 3.2 µg/kg, G1 – 2%, 0.75–21 µg/kg, G2 – 5%, 0.5–12.5 µg/kg), ochratoxin A (15% samples, 0.8–14 µg/kg), fumonisin B1 (8%, 16.1–722.6 µg/kg), and fumonisin B2 (14%, < LOQ – 79.6 µg/kg). T-2 toxin and deoxynivalenol were found in 10% of samples (< LOQ – 6.5 µg/kg and < LOQ – 65.5 µg/kg respectively), zearalenone – in 4 samples (1.7–106.2 µg/kg), HT-2 toxin – in 8 samples (5.4–19.8 µg/kg). Among little-studied (emergent) mycotoxins in the spices and herbs samples there were found tentoxin (in 36% of samples, in an amount from 0.7 to 10.9 µg/kg), altenuene (in 8%, 14.5–161.5 µg/kg). 10% of the samples were contaminated with alternariol and its methyl ether (from less than LOQ to 12.8 and < LOQ to 55.7 µg/kg, respectively), 4% – with sterigmatocystin (0.4–7.8 µg/kg), 5% – mycophenolic acid (13.1–297 µg/kg), 2% of the samples were contaminated with citrinin and enniatin B (< LOQ – 27.7 and 0.1–1 µg/kg), in 9 samples (6%) beauvericin was detected (< LOQ – 1.7 µg/kg). Over 60% of samples were contaminated with more than one mycotoxin. The content of aflatoxin B1 exceeded the maximum permissible level set in the EU (5 µg/kg) in nine samples.

Conclusion. To the best of our knowledge, the present study is the first in the Russian Federation to report results indicating to the contamination of spices and herbs with mycotoxins. High occurrence of aflatoxins, tentoxin, ochratoxin A and fumonisin B2 has been observed. In calculating the potential exposure of mycotoxins, the possibility of high levels of aflatoxin B1 intake have been shown to be possible, which could lead to a public health risk when consuming contaminated spices, herbs and foods containing them.

Keywords:mycotoxins; spices; herbs; ochratoxin A; aflatoxins; tentoxin; fumonisin B2; contamination; UHPLC-MS/MS

Funding. The research was carried out at the expense of subsidies for the implementation of the state task within the framework of the Program of Fundamental Scientific Research.

Conflict of interest. Authors declare no conflict of interests.

Contribution. Research design – Chalyy Z.A., Kiseleva M.G.; harmonisation of concept – Tutelyan V.A.; collection and processing of material – Chalyy Z.A., Kiseleva M.G.; statistical data processing – Chalyy Z.A., Sedova I.B.; manuscript writing – Chalyy Z.A., Sedova I.B.; edition, adoption of the final article, responsibility for the integrity of all parts of the article – all authors.

For citation: Chalyy Z.A., Kiseleva M.G., Sedova I.B., Tutelyan V.A. Mycotoxins in spices consumed in Russia. Voprosy pitaniia [Problems of Nutrition]. 2023; 92 (2): 26–34. DOI: (in Russian)


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Viktor A. Tutelyan
Full Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Professor, Scientific Director of the Federal Research Centre of Nutrition, Biotechnology and Food Safety (Moscow, Russia)

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