Ochratoxin A From a Toxicological Perspective

J Vet Pharmacol Ther. 2000 Apr;23(2):91-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2885.2000.00244.x.


Ochratoxin A (OTA) is a widespread mycotoxin which is produced mainly by the mould fungi Aspergillus ochraceus and Penicillum verrucosum during the storage of cereals, cereal products and other plant-derived products such as herbs, spices, grapes, etc. By carry over from mouldy fodder, ochratoxin A is also found in pork meat, offal and sausages containing pork blood. When ingested as a food contaminant, OTA is very persistent in human beings with a blood half-life of 35 days after a single oral dosage due to unfavourable elimination toxicokinetics. This renders the toxin among the most frequent mycotoxin contaminants in human blood in the EU, the US, Canada, and elsewhere, where it has been investigated. OTA is neither stored nor deposited in the body, but heterogeneous body distribution may impose serious damage to the kidneys. The toxin was classified a 2B cancer compound, being possibly carcinogenic for humans. It was among the strongest carcinogenic compounds in rats and mice. As the toxicological profile also includes teratogenesis, nephrotoxicity, and immunotoxicity, legislation authorities are currently discussing maximal residue levels (MRL) for OTA in various foodstuffs. In the present article arguments are presented which suggest an acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 1.5 ng OTA/kg body weight and a much lower MRL than 5 microgram OTA/kg cereals and cereal products as has been postulated by the EU commission.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Carcinogens* / chemistry
  • Carcinogens* / pharmacokinetics
  • Carcinogens* / toxicity
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Mutagens
  • Ochratoxins* / blood
  • Ochratoxins* / chemistry
  • Ochratoxins* / pharmacokinetics
  • Ochratoxins* / toxicity
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Carcinogens
  • Mutagens
  • Ochratoxins
  • ochratoxin A