Worldwide contamination of food-crops with mycotoxins: Validity of the widely cited ‘FAO estimate’ of 25%

Mari Eskola, Gregor Kos, Christopher T. Elliott, Jana Hajšlová, Sultan Mayar, Rudolf Krska*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

695 Citations (Scopus)
1434 Downloads (Pure)


Prior to 1985 the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated global food crop contamination with mycotoxins to be 25%. The origin of this statement is largely unknown. To assess the rationale for it, the relevant literature was reviewed and data of around 500,000 analyses from the European Food Safety Authority and large global survey for aflatoxins, fumonisins, deoxynivalenol, T-2 and HT-2 toxins, zearalenone and ochratoxin A in cereals and nuts were examined. Using different thresholds, i.e. limit of detection, the lower and upper regulatory limits of European Union (EU) legislation and Codex Alimentarius standards, the mycotoxin occurrence was estimated. Impact of different aspects on uncertainty of the occurrence estimates presented in literature and related to our results are critically discussed. Current mycotoxin occurrence above the EU and Codex limits appears to confirm the FAO 25% estimate, while this figure greatly underestimates the occurrence above the detectable levels (up to 60–80%). The high occurrence is likely explained by a combination of the improved sensitivity of analytical methods and impact of climate change. It is of immense importance that the detectable levels are not overlooked as through diets, humans are exposed to mycotoxin mixtures which can induce combined adverse health effects.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition
Early online date03 Sept 2019
Publication statusEarly online date - 03 Sept 2019


  • analysis
  • cereals
  • Chemical contaminant
  • data
  • occurrence
  • uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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