Zearalenone in breakfast cereals - minimal health concern to Norwegian children


Report no: 2012: 04

Published: 19.01.2012

Main message:

The Norwegian Scientific Committee on Food Safety (VKM) has performed a health risk assessment of zearalenone from breakfast cereals, and concluded that the exposure is of minimal health risk to Norwegian children.

The evaluation of zearalenone exposure, based on Norwegian consumption data of high-fibre breakfast cereals among Norwegian 2-, 4-, 9- and 13-year-olds and European occurrence data of zearalenone, indicated that the current exposure among mean and high consumers is well below the tolerable daily intake (TDI) for all age groups of children.

Zearalenone is a mycotoxin produced by Fusarium species, which may invade crops in the field, and can, after crop harvesting, be detected in grain and grain products.

In EU, the current maximum level of zearalenone in breakfast cereals, except maize-based, is under discussion for a potential increase. In this connection, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority requested VKM to assess the exposure of Norwegian children to zearalenone from food, including different exposure scenarios of zearalenone maximum levels in breakfast cereals:

Long-term exposure

A long-term exposure scenario considering a 3-fold increase in the current mean zearalenone concentration indicated that the exposure would probably be well below the TDI for all age groups of Norwegian children, including high consumers of breakfast cereals.

Short-term exposure

The short-term exposure scenarios among Norwegian children were based on the presumptions that the zearalenone concentration is equal to, double or triple the current maximum level (50µg/kg in breakfast cereals). The presumptions imply significantly higher concentration of zearalenone than the current occurrence data show.

VKMs calculations indicated that at a zearalenone concentration equal to the current maximum level, exposure from breakfast cereals would slightly exceed the TDI only among 4-year-old high consumers.

If the concentrations of zearalenone in breakfast cereals are double or triple the current maximum level, VKMs calculations indicated that all high consumers among Norwegian children would exceed the TDI. However, the TDI has been set for long-term exposure and does not apply directly for short-term exposure.


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