Risks associated with mycotoxin contamination of cereals, that are included in the ten major staple foods and greatly contribute to the dietary energy intake, are of worldwide relevance. In small grain cereals, mycotoxins are produced by fungi such as Aspergillus, Penicillium, Alternaria and Fusarium that colonize the plant in the field and can grow during the post-harvest period, producing several classes of mycotoxins. The identification of mycotoxigenic fungal species and strains is essential for developing effective strategies for control. For this purpose, genetic traceability has proved to be a valuable tool that can be applied along the whole production chain, starting in the field for early diagnosis of FHB (Fusarium Head Blight) disease to the final processing steps, such as malting or pasta making. In this paper, DNA-based analytical tools that are currently available for the identification and quantification of mycotoxigenic fungal species and strains are reviewed, with particular emphasis on Fusarium, and their possible applications in mycotoxin control in small grain cereal chains are discussed.
- Small grain cereals