Contaminants in Grain—A Major Risk for Whole Grain Safety?

Thielecke Frank, Anne P. Nugent

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)
714 Downloads (Pure)


Grains are the main energy and carbohydrate sources for human nutrition globally. Governmental and non-governmental authorities recommend whole grains as a healthy food choice. The role of contaminants in (whole) grains and how to mitigate any potential risk following their consumption has not been reported. With this narrative review, we shed light on the potential human health risk from contaminants in whole grains and elaborate strategies to mitigate such risk. We found that grains represent a significant source of food-borne contaminants, the main ones being; mycotoxins including A) aflatoxin B1; B) ochratoxin A; C) fumonisin B1; D) deoxynivalenol; E) zearalenone; toxic metals like arsenic, cadmium and lead; as well as process contaminants such as acrylamide. Whole grains usually contain more contaminants than refined products. However, whole grains also provide more nutrients that may reduce the impact of these contaminants. Strict regulatory thresholds aim to minimize the risk of contaminants to public health. The consumer can further impact on the mitigation of any risk by eating a healthy diet filled with nutrient-dense foods such as whole grains and probiotics. The risk posed by contaminants from whole grains do not outweigh the known nutritional benefits of whole grain consumption.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1213
Number of pages23
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 02 Sept 2018


  • whole grain; contaminants; risk mitigation; mycotoxin; metal; human health; diet


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