The trichothecenes mycotoxins are produced mainly by fungi of the Fusarium genus. Fusaria are the most important mycotoxin-producing species, occurring widely in field crops.

Group A trichothecenes includes: T-2 toxin, HT-2 toxin, Neosolaniol, and Diacetoxyscirpenol.

Group B trichothecenes includes Deoxynivalenol (commonly called ‘DON’ or ‘vomitoxin’), Nivalenol, and Fusarenon X.

Because Deoxynivalenol is toxic and often found in foodstuffs, sometimes in high concentrations, it has recently become a concern of international organizations and governmental food agencies.

Affected commodities and derived products

Trichothecenes occur in cereal grains such as wheat, barley, maize, oats, rice, soya beans, and derived products such as breakfast cereals and beer. They also can contaminate other food commodities including sorghum, potatoes, bananas, mustard seed, groundnuts, mangoes, sunflower seeds, and cassava.

Toxicity and economic importance  

The Trichothecene group of toxins is acutely cytotoxic and strongly immunosuppressive at low concentrations. Acute toxicity is characterized by gastrointestinal disturbances such as vomiting, diarrhea, inflammation, dermal irritation, feed refusal, abortion, anemia, and leukopenia.

Regulation and permissible limits

In 2000, the EC proposed Deoxynivalenol action levels of 500ppb, for cereal products.  

Analytical detection methods

The current analytical method of choice for quantitative results is GC with electron capture or mass spectrometric detection (MS). Recently, LC-MS, has been employed for the determination and identification of trichothecenes at trace levels. In addition, reliable and sensitive HPLC methods have been developed for some of the Group B compounds.

Accurate analysis of mycotoxins such as the trichothecenes depends upon the use of certified mycotoxin standard reference materials that are used for calibration and validation of the food safety analytical instruments and methods.