Occurrence of mycotic and aflatoxin contamination in Myristica fragrans seeds (nutmeg) and Capsicum annum (chili) packed in Italy and commercialized worldwide




Aflatoxins are secondary metabolites of moulds known to be carcinogenic for humans, and therefore should not be ingested in high doses. This study aimed to determine the level of mould and aflatoxin contamination in dehydrated chili and nutmeg imported from India and Indonesia, respectively, packed in Italy, and commercialized worldwide.

63 samples of chili (22 sanitized through heat treatment, and 41 not heat treated) and 52 samples of nutmeg (22 sanitized through heat treatment, and 30 not heat treated) were tested for aflatoxin, moulds and moisture content.

Heat-treated samples were less contaminated than those not treated. Spices in powder (both chili and nutmeg) were more contaminated than whole ones. In untreated spices, we observed a positive correlation between mould and moisture content. Of the nutmeg and chili powder samples, 72.5% and 50% tested positive for aflatoxin contamination with a range of 0 â 17.2 μg kg-1 and 0 - 10.3 μg kg-1, respectively.

The steam treatment of spices would be useful in reducing the initial amount of moulds. Despite the fact that risk from the consumption of spices contaminated with aflatoxins is minimal, due to the small amount used in food, preventive screening actions of the whole food chain are very important, especially because the most frequently identified toxin was B1 which is the most dangerous of the four toxins (B1, B2, G1, G2). 



Zinedine A, Brera C, Elakhdari S, et al. Natural occurrence of mycotoxins in cereals and spices commercialized in Morocco. Food Control 2006; 17:868-874.

Varga J, Frisvad JC, Samson RA. Two new aflatoxin producing species, and an overview of Aspergillus section flavi. Stud Mycol 2011; 69(1):57-80.

Lozano-Ojalv D, Rodríguez A, Bernáldez V, et al. Influence of temperature and substrate conditions on the omt-1 gene expression of Aspergillus parasiticus in relation to its aflatoxin production. Int J Food Microbiol 2013; 166(2):263-269.

Schatzmayr G and Streit E. Global occurrence of mycotoxins in the food and feed chain: facts and figures. World Mycotoxin J 2013, 6(3): 213-222.

IARC. Some naturally occurring substances: food items and constituents, Heterocyclic Aromatic Amines and Mycotoxins. IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans. IARC Scientific Publication1993; 56.

Fung F, Clark RF. Health effects of mycotoxins: a toxicological overview. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 2004; 42(2):217â234.

Iqbal SZ, Asi MR, Ariño A. Aflatoxins. In: Brenner's Encyclopedia of Genetics (Second Edition), Elsevier Inc. 2013, pp. 43-47. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-374984-0.00022-X

Czerwiecki L, Wilczyfiska G, Kwieciefi A. Mycotoxins in several Polish food products in 2004-2005. Mycotoxin Res 2006; 22(3):159-162.

Food Survey Information Sheet: 04/10 November 2010 SURVEILLANCE PROGRAMME FOR MYCOTOXINS IN FOODS (YEAR 1: CEREALS AND CEREAL PRODUCTS) Food Standard Agency Available at: http://fera.co.uk/food/nationalReferenceLaboratory/chemicalFoodSafety/mycotoxins/documents/fsis0410.pdf

Commission Regulation (EU) No 1058/2012 of 12 November 2012 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels for aflatoxins in dried figs Text with EEA relevance. Official Journal of the European Communities. L 313. Brussels.

Commission Regulation (EC) No 401/2006 of 23 February 2006 laying down the Methods of sampling and analysis for the official control of the levels of mycotoxins in foodstuffs. Official Journal of the European Communities. L 70. Brussels.

Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 of 19 December 2006 setting Maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs. Official Journal of the European Communities. L 364. Brussels.

Commission Regulation (EU) No 165/2010 of 26 February 2010 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs as regards aflatoxins. Official Journal of the European Communities. L 50. Brussels.

Chanda S, Erexson G, Riach C, et al. Genotoxicity studies with pure trans-capsaicin. Mutat Res Genet Toxicol Environ Mutagen 2004; 557(1):85â97.

Surh YJ, Lee SS. Capsaicin, a double-edged-sword â toxicity, metabolism, and chemopreventive potential. Life Sci 1995; 56(22):1845-1855.

Alvarez-Parrilla E, de la Rosa LA, Amarowicz R, Shahidi F, et al. Antioxidant activity of fresh and processed jalapeno and serrano peppers. J Agric Food Chem 2011; 59(1):163â173.

Spiller F, Alves MK, Vieira SM, et al. Anti-inflammatory effects of red pepper (Capsicum baccatum) on carrageenan- and antigen-induced inflammation. J Pharm Pharmacol 2008; 60(4):473-478.

Careaga M, Fernandez E, Dorantes L, et al. Antibacterial activity of Capsicum extract against Salmonella typhimurium and Pseudomonas aeruginosa inoculated in raw beef meat. Int J Food Microbiol 2003; 83(3):331â335.

Estrada B, Bernal MA, Diaz J, et al. Capsaicinoids in vegetative organs of Capsicum annuum L. in relation to fruiting. J Agric Food Chem 2002; 50(5):1188â1191.

Govindarajan VS. Capsicum production, technology, chemistry, and quality. Part II. Processed products, standards, world production and trade CRC. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 1986; 24:207-288.

Govindarajan VS, Rajalakshmi D, Chand N. Capsicum â production, technology, chemistry, and quality.4. Evaluation of quality CRC. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 1987; 25(3):185â282.

Pino J, González M, Ceballos L, et al. Characterization of total capsaicinoids, colour and volatile compounds of Habanero chilli pepper (Capsicum chinense Jack.) cultivars grown in Yucatan. Food Chem 2007; 104(4):1682-1686.

Constant HL, Cordell GA, West DP. Nonivamide, a constituent of Capsicum oleoresin. J Nat Prod 1996; 59(4):425-426.

Giuffrida D, Dugo P, Torre G, et al. Characterization of 12 Capsicum varieties by evaluation of their carotenoid profile and pungency determination. Food Chem 2013; 140(4):794â802.

Huang XF, Xue JY, Jiang AQ, et al. Capsaicin and its analogues: structure-activity relationship study. Curr Med Chem 2013; 20(21):2661-2672.

Grover JK, Khandkar S, Vats V, et al. Pharmacological studies on Myristica fragransâantidiarrheal, hypnotic, analgesic and hemodynamic (blood pressure) parameters. Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol 2002; 24:675â680.

Olajide OA, Ajayi FF, Ekhelar AL, et al. Biological effects of Myristica fragrans (nutmeg) extract. Phytother Res 1999; 13:344â345.

Gupta AD, Bansal VK, Babu V, et al. Chemistry, antioxidant and antimicrobial potential of nutmeg (Myristica fragrans Houtt). J Genet Eng Biotechnol 2013; 11(1):25-31.

Sabulal B, Dan M, John A, et al. Caryophyllene-rich rhizome oil of Zingiber nimmonii from South India: chemical characterization and antimicrobial activity. Phytochemistry 2006; 67:2469-2473.

ISO 7218: 2007. Microbiology of food and animal feeding stuffs â General requirements and guidance for microbiological examinations.

UNI EN ISO 21527-2:2008. Microbiology of food and animal feeding stuffs â Horizontal method for the enumeration of yeast and moulds. Part 2: Colony count technique in products with water activity less than or oqual to 0.95. Geneva: International Organization for Standardization.

Bononi M, Andreoli G, Tateo F, et al. Estrazione di Aflatossine con una nuova metodica di purificazione atta alla determinazione per HPLC/FD in spezie. Industrie Alimentari 2008; 47:730-736.

Golge O, Hepsag F, Kabak B. Incidence and level of aflatoxin contamination in chilli commercialized in Turkey. Food Control 2013; 33:514-520.

NMKL - Nordisk Metodik Komité for Levnedsmiddel (Nordic Committee on Food Analysis). Procedure N°5; Estimation and expression of measurement uncertainty in chemical analysis. 1997.

Hammami W, Fiori S, Thani R, et al. Fungal and aflatoxin contamination of marketed spices. Food Control 2014; 37:177-181.

Mandeel QA. Fungal contamination of some imported spices. Mycopathologia 2005; 159:291-298.

Kaaya AN, Eboku D. Mould and Aflatoxin Contamination of Dried Cassava Chips in Eastern Uganda: Association with Traditional Processing and Storage Practice. J Biol Sci 2010; 10(8):718-729.

Aryee FNA, Oduro I, Ellis WO, et al. The physicochemical properties of flour samples from the roots of 31 varieties of cassava. Food Control 2006; 17:916-922.

Abdulkadar AHW, Al-Ali AA, Al-Kildi AM, et al. Mycotoxins in food products available in Qatar. Food Control 2004; 15:543-548.

Yerneni SG, Hari SS, Jaganathan R, et al. Determination of the level of aflatoxin present in the marketed spices. World Journal of Science and Technology 2012; 2:31-34.

Patharajan S, Reddy KRN, Karthikeyan V, et al. Potential of yeasts antagonists on in vitro biodegradation of ochratoxin A. Food Control 2011; 22:290-296.