I eat a cereal made from oats almost everyday. A friend told me oat cereals have a fungus in them. Is this true?
Nick, Feeding Hills
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. According to a study at the University of Idaho, 70 percent of oat-based cereals purchased in the U.S. were contaminated the fungal toxin called ochratoxin A.
This does not mean you need to stop eating your oat cereal but you may want to vary your breakfast to be safe. This toxin may suppress your immune system, increase your risk of cancer and may be toxic to your nervous and reproductive systems. Over the course of two years, researchers bought breakfast cereals from U.S. supermarkets. They tested almost 500 samples.
Overall, 42 percent of the samples were contaminated with the toxin. But the highest percentage – again 70 percent – of oat-based cereals were contaminated. Some wheat, corn and rice cereals were also contaminated but not as many. There was also no statistical difference between organic and conventional products.
The U.S. has no established limit for how much of this toxin can be in cereal. Europe does establish a limit.