Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Stoneville, Mississippi » Biological Control of Pests Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #325314

Title: Mycotoxin contamination in corn smut (Ustilago maydis) galls in the field and in the commercial food products

item Abbas, Hamed
item SHIER, W - University Of Minnesota
item PLASENCIA, JAVIER - University Of Mexico
item Weaver, Mark
item Bellaloui, Nacer
item Kotowicz, Jeremy
item ACCINELLI, CESARE - University Of Bologna
item TORRE-HERNANDEZ, M. EUGENIA - University Of Mexico
item ZABLOTOWICZ, ROBERT - Retired ARS Employee

Submitted to: Food Control
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/8/2016
Publication Date: 6/11/2016
Citation: Abbas, H.K., Shier, W.T., Plasencia, J., Weaver, M.A., Bellaloui, N., Kotowicz, J.K., Accinelli, C., Torre-Hernandez, M., Zablotowicz, R.M. 2016. Mycotoxin contamination in corn smut (Ustilago maydis) galls in the field and in the commercial food products. Food Research International. 71:57-63.

Interpretive Summary: Mycotoxin contamination of foods meant for direct human consumption is of much greater concern with respect to food safety than is mycotoxin contamination of animal feeds for which reduced weight gain is the major concern. Food safety concerns extend to ethnic foods, particularly fermented foods prepared by traditional methods. The present study focusses on mycotoxin contamination in corn smut galls, a traditional food in Mexico that is occasionally imported into the US. We have observed variable levels and incidence of the mycotoxins of greatest food safety concern (aflatoxins, fumonisins, cyclopiazonic acid, zearalenone and deoxynivalenol) in canned and fresh corn smut galls, indicating a need for further study of this type of food product before we can be assured of their safety. This information will be useful to corn farmers and the food industry and scientist inside and outside the ARS.

Technical Abstract: Corn infected with Ustilago maydis, causal agent of common smut disease, produces galls that are used as food in certain cultures, but may be contaminated with mycotoxins. The objective of this study was to determine mycotoxin levels in common smut galls (CSGs) collected from the field at corn ear reproductive stages R1 through R5 and in commercial CSGs products. The study was conducted in 2012 and 2013. The results showed the presence of Mycotoxins were found in CSGs in corn during ear development at various physiological stages R1 to R5. Fumonisin was the major mycotoxin in CSG samples in both 2012 (63%, =150.7 ppm) and 2013 (46.9%, =20.9 ppm); followed by aflatoxin (2012: 2%, =14.7 ppb; 2013: 30.6%, =10.8 ppb) and zearalenone (2012: =41.70 ppb; 2013: =12.40 ppb). Deoxynivalenol (DON) was only detected in 2012 (=1.6 ppm), and cyclopiazonic acid was only detected in 2013 (=3.18 ppm). Commercial canned and fresh CSG samples also contained detectable amounts of mycotoxins including aflatoxin, fumonisin, CPA, and DON. Aspergillus flavus was isolated from selected 2013 CSG field samples at R2 or older (=4.10 x 105 cfu/g), whereas Fusarium spp were isolated at R1 or older (=1.04 x 107 cfu/g). These results indicate that CSGs can be infected with mycotoxigenic fungi and contaminated with mycotoxins. The incidence of mycotoxins in commercially available CSG products was highly variable and warrants further study.