Introduction

Mycotoxins are a chemically diverse group of toxic secondary metabolites produced by filamentous fungi. They are responsible for significant financial losses for the food industry, particularly any aspect of the industry that harvests, stores, processes, or uses commodities or ingredients. Mycotoxins elicit a variety of acute and chronic toxic effects in domestic animals and humans including reduced growth efficiency, vomiting, reproductive problems, cancer, and immunosuppression [1,2]. Worldwide, mycotoxins pose a threat to public health, agriculture, and economics [3].

Patulin is a mycotoxin produced by fungi belonging to several genera including penicillium, aspergillus, and byssochlamys. Although patulin can occur in many molding fruits, grain, and other foods, the major source of patulin contamination is apples with blue mold rot, and in apple cider or apple juice pressed from moldy fruit. Penicillium expansum is believed to be the major fungal species contributing to patulin in apple products. Mold growth occurs when the surface tissue of fruit has been damaged by improper handling, insect or storm damage, and is often followed by production of patulin. P. expansum and patulin contamination of fruit can occur before harvest, but they are more commonly found as contaminants of apples postharvest and during storage. Thermal processing is effective in destroying microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, and most fungi. However, patulin is fairly heat resistant, especially in acidic environments. The stability of patulin is illustrated by the presence of the toxin in shelf-stable apple products (juices, concentrates, jellies, baby foods, etc.) [4-7]. Since the compound persists in heated juices, it has been suggested that the presence of patulin in processed apple products may be a good indicator of the quality of the fruit used in production.

Patulin has been demonstrated to be acutely toxic [8], genotoxic [9], teratogenic [8,10,11], and possibly immunotoxic [12,13] to animals. Although the toxicity of patulin in humans has not been demonstrated conclusively, there is a desire to limit its concentration in apple juice since young children and infants are major consumers of this product, and the effects of long-term exposure to patulin are not known. Many countries, including the U.S., have set regulatory limits for patulin in apple products of 50 mg/l or less.

This chapter reviews the literature on the chemical properties of patulin, methods for monitoring the occurrence and levels of patulin in food, regulation of patulin levels, factors affecting growth of P. expansum and patulin

FIGURE 13.1 Chemical structure of patulin (4-hydroxy-4H-furo[3,2-c]pyran-2(6H)-one).

formation, and methods for controlling the levels of this toxin in apple products.

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