Did you ever imagine something on your kitchen shelf that’s as staple as the chilli powder could lead to cancer? That’s exactly what a study conducted by Gujarat Forensic Sciences University (GFSU) has found out recently. The study, which was on popular brands of chilli powder revealed that about half of them had higher levels of mycotoxins which have already been proven to be carcinogenic.
Conducted by assistant professors Jayrajsinh Sarvaiya and Prajesh Prajapati of Institute of Research and Development (IRD) of GFSU, pointed this out as the factor for the high rejection rate of Indian spices on the western countries.
“Half of the top brands”
“We are constantly screening various commercial food samples for the presence of aflatoxin, a variant of mycotoxins, to train our students in food forensics. It is really a matter of a concern to find half of the top brands of spices, in particular, chilli powder, with a high level of either of the two variants of aflatoxin. At the same time, some of the brands were found to be of good quality too,” Dr. Sarvaiya told the publication.
LC-MS method of screening mycotoxin in food products, the most advanced method for food forensics was used for the study, reported TOI. Six Indian brands were taken for study and some of the samples were found to have 50 to 100 ppb level as opposing to the accepted level of 30 ppb (parts per billion). Improper storage of the whole chillis by vendors was stated as a probable reason.
Proper storage and regular testing
“Various regulatory authorities of the world, including FSSAI has laid down very strict compliance limit for the presence of mycotoxins in different types of grains, pulses, spices, milk and other food products,” said Dr. Pajapati. Mycotoxins are produced by specific strains of fungus and enter the food chain from them. Proper storage of the spiced in a humidity-free environment and regular testing for traces of fungus can prevent the growth of mycotoxins, according to Prasenjit Maity, in-charge director of IRD.
“The researchers added that even the feed for cattle should be screened to decrease contamination of aflatoxin M1, which is milk-specific mycotoxin in cow and buffalo milk. Internationally, the tolerance limit is set at 0.1 part per billion (ppb) for the substance,” he added.