Mycotoxins and toxigenic fungi in sago starch from Papua New Guinea

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AimsTo assay sago starch from Papua New Guinea (PNG) for important mycotoxins and to test fungal isolates from sago for mycotoxin production in culture.Methods and ResultsSago starch collected from Western and East Sepik Provinces was assayed for aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, cyclopiazonic acid, sterigmatocystin, citrinin and zearalenone and all 51 samples were negative. Frequently isolated species of Penicillium (13), Aspergillus (five) and Fusarium (one) were cultured on wheat grain, and tested for the production of ochratoxin A, cyclopiazonic acid, sterigmatocystin, citrinin, patulin and penicillic acid. All 12 isolates of P. citrinin and one of two A. flavipes isolates produced citrinin. A single isolate of A. versicolor produced sterigmatocystin. No other mycotoxins were detected in these cultures.ConclusionsNo evidence was found of systemic mycotoxin contamination of sago starch. However, the isolation of several mycotoxigenic fungi shows the potential for citrinin and other mycotoxins to be produced in sago stored under special conditions.Significance and Impact of the studySago starch is the staple carbohydrate in lowland PNG and the absence of mycotoxins in freshly prepared sago starch is a positive finding. However, the frequent isolation of citrinin-producing fungi indicates a potential health risk for sago consumers, and food safety is dependant on promoting good storage practices.

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