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Mycotoxin (ochratoxin A) producing fungi in West African cocoa crops


Association of the Chocolate, Biscuit and Confectionery Industries of the EU (CAOBISCO)


Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD)

Project Description

SEM of Aspergillus ochraceus

Problem/Issue. Ochratoxin A (OTA) is a natural mycotoxin, produced by a number of fungal species in the genera Aspergillus and Penicillium. It is commonly associated with many food crops grown in semi-tropical and temperate climates, including cereals, coffee, pulses and cocoa. Growth of the mould and the production of the mycotoxin is dependent upon a number of factors such as temperature and humidity during the growth, harvesting and subsequent drying and storage of the crop. Since it is stable to heat and other physical food processing, it can also occur in food products containing these ingredients. In humans, severe dietary exposure to OTA has been associated with chronic kidney disease.

The EU is considering bringing in regulatory limits for ochratoxin A in cocoa and cocoa products by the end of 2002. It has given industry until that date to implement preventative measures to try to reduce OTA levels in cocoa.

Project Activities. CABI Bioscience is the UK representative on the International Permanent Committee for Stored Product Protection and the UK representative on the International Commission for Penicillium and Aspergillus systematics. With over 25 years experience in postharvest mycology and postharvest storage contamination problems, CABI Bioscience will examine all the stages in cocoa production, from the tree through to the finished product (chocolate) in order to identify those critical points where OTA enters the product.

Achievements So Far

Scientists at CABI Bioscience have collected cocoa samples from all stages of production during a 2 week visit to Ghana in November 2000. The samples are now at CAB Bioscience being analysed for OTA and the OTA producing fungi.

What Next

It is anticipated that the outputs from this project will form the basis of a follow up project to reduce OTA levels in world cocoa crops.

For more information please contact Dr. Zofia Lawrence z.lawrence@cabi.org

Start date: Novenber 1999

End date: Novenber 1999

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Contact CABI Commodities:
CABI Commodities Coffee Co-ordinator - Dr. Peter Baker - p.baker@cabi.org
CABI Commodities Cocoa Co-ordinator - Dr. Keith Holmes - k.holmes@cabi.org
CABI Commodities Project Administrator - cabi-commodities@cabi.org