Background: Deoxynivalenol (DON) is a mycotoxin produced primarily by the fungi Fusarium graminearum and F. culmorum in cereal grains. It causes vomiting, anorexia, reduced weight gain, and impaired immune function in multiple animal species. Several outbreaks of human gastroenteritis in different populations worldwide suggest a possible link to dietary DON exposure. Because of these acute and chronic health risks, the United Nations (UN) Codex Alimentarius Commission has recently set guidelines on maximum tolerable DON levels in wheat, barley, and maize. Scope and approach: This review describes DON occurrence in wheat worldwide, and current regulations regarding DON in foods set by Codex Alimentarius Commission and some individual countries. We review toxicological evaluations of DON and extend global human health risk assessments for different age-subgroups. Whether the recent Codex DON guidelines are adequately protective is addressed on the basis of risk assessments with and without these guidelines in place, in different nations of the world. Key findings and conclusions: Using updated wheat consumption data from the FAO/WHO Chronic individual food consumption database (CIFOCO), we found adult populations in Brazil, China and Belgium and child populations in Australia, China, and Belgium have DON exposures that could pose chronic health risks. The new Codex guidelines for DON in wheat are stricter than most nations’ current regulatory standards. Some populations worldwide may not be well protected even if Codex standards are applied, because of high wheat consumption. In those populations, pre- and postharvest interventions to reduce DON in wheat should be implemented to protect health.

Access the full publication.

Learn more about the IAFNS Food and Chemical Safety Committee.