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Is Oatmeal Breakfast Toxic? Idaho Researchers Find OTA Toxin in Oat Cereals

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Known as heart-friendly meal recommended for breakfast by doctors around, oat-based breakfast cereals have now come under question by researchers who have detected potentially dangerous mould contamination in them.

They said some oat-based breakfast cereals contain a high-level of mould-related toxin called ochratoxin A (OTA) that has been linked to kidney cancer in animal studies conducted by them in the US. Animals exposed to OTA in experiments conducted by Idaho varsity researchers showed that it developed kidney tumours.

“OTA has been found in all major cereal grains including oat, wheat, and barley worldwide and considered as a potential concern in food safety,” said researchers Hyun Jung Lee and Dojin Ryu from the University of Idaho.

Though OTA was found in many cereals, to their surprise, the incidence of OTA was highest in oat cereals, followed by wheat-cereals, corn-cereals, and rice-cereals, according to the study.

Researchers still not able to assess how the toxin affects human health, but the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organisation, classifies it as a possible human carcinogen.

The European Union has already set in force certain strict limits for OTA in food at the rate of three nanogram per gram. Now, the researchers Ryu and Lee say the US breakfast cereals should measure up to similar standard.

The study has tested about 500 samples of corn-based, rice-based, wheat-based and oat-based breakfast cereals sold in the US stores in the last two years. In most of the samples, they said they found OTA levels were lower than the European standards.

In fact, the toxic concentrations were found to be 8 times above the EU standard in 8% of oat-based breakfast cereal samples.

Though researchers did not squarely recommend against oat-based cereals for breakfast, they concluded that oat production, storage and processing require careful review to better protect consumer health now.

The findings have been published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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