Aflatoxins (AFB1, AFB2, AFG1 and AFG2) are immunosuppressant, mutagenic, teratogenic and carcinogenic agents with a widespread presence in foodstuffs. Since human exposure to aflatoxins occurs primarily by contaminated food intake, and given the greater susceptibility of infants to their adverse effects, the quantification of these mycotoxins in infant food based on cereals is of relevance. Aflatoxin levels were determined in 91 Spanish infant cereals classified in terms of non- and organically produced and several types from 10 different manufacturers, using a extraction procedure followed by inmunoaffinity column clean-up step and HPLC with fluorescence detection (FLD) and post-column derivatisation (Kobra Cell system). Daily aflatoxin intake was also assessed. Preliminary analysis showed a valuable incidence of detected infant cereal samples at an upper concentration level than the detection limit for total aflatoxin (66%), corresponding to a 46, 40, 34 and 11% for AFB1, AFB2, AFG1 and AFG2, respectively. Lower aflatoxin values (median, Q1, Q3) in conventional infant cereal (n = 74, AFB1: <LOD (n.d.; 0.02), AFB2: n.d. (n.d.; 0.01), AFG1: <LOD (n.d.; 0.004), and AFG2: n.d. (n.d.; <LOD) and total AF (AFtotal): 0.01 (<LOD; 0.04 µg kg(-1)) in comparison with infant cereal ecologically produced (n = 17, AFB1: 0.02 (0.02; 0.21), AFB2: n.d. (n.d.; 0.03), AFG1: 0.02 (0.01; 0.05), and AFG2: 0.007 (n.d.; 0.02) and AFtotal: 0.05 (0.03; 0.31 µg kg(-1)) were found. In addition, five organic formulations (3.11, 1.98, 0.94, 0.47 and 0.21 µg kg(-1)) exceeded European AFB1 legislation (0.10 µg kg(-1)) versus two conventional cereals (0.35 and 0.12 µg kg(-1)). According to the type of infant cereal, those with cocoa had the highest aflatoxin levels. Gluten-free and cereals with dehydrated fruits had an intermediate level and milk- or honey-based cereals and multi-cereals contained the lowest levels. With the exception of the non-compliant cocoa-based organic formulation, none of the infant cereals analyzed gave a higher intake of 1 ng kg(-1) body weight per day, suggesting that infants fed on infant cereals are exposed to a low health hazard. Nevertheless, manufacturers are advised for continued efforts in routine monitoring and a more careful selection of raw material to minimize aflatoxin levels in these infant foods.
Keywords: aflatoxins; baby food; cereals; mycotoxins, aflatoxins.