Sterigmatocystin occurs in the metabolism of fungi as a precursor of aflatoxins and is therefore structurally related. Just as aflatoxin, sterigmatocystin is produced by more than 50 types of fungus, including the Aspergillus fungus species; however, it is less common that aflatoxin.

Sterigmatocystin was detected in grains and grain products as well as other products such as cheese, raw coffee and spices, even if the data that is available on its occurrence in food is very limited. In 2013, the EFSA committee for contaminations in the food chain was asked to evaluate the risk for the health of humans and animals in conjunction with sterigmatocystin in food and animal feed. The products that were examined included:

  • Grains including wheat, barley, rye, oat and rice
  • Grain products including flour, bread and pastries, pasta, cereal and muesli
  • Nuts
  • Beer

The detection limit recommended by the EFSA is 1.5 ppb. A detection level as low as this is difficult to achieve with UV-HPLC due to the background noise and the analysis of complex products such as cheese, coffee and spices can also be quite difficult with LC-MS/MS. Therefore, the use of an immunoaffinity column is necessary for sample purification and concentration of the toxin in order to guarantee an exact quantification.

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