Last Updated: December 20, 2013
Ochratoxin and aflatoxin are naturally-occurring mycotoxins formed under certain conditions by particular types of molds, particularly certain species of Aspergillus and Penicillium. These molds may be found in many types of commodities such as grains, beans, coffee, vine fruits, nuts and spices. Sometimes very low levels may be found in food products including cocoa and cocoa products.
The exposure from cocoa and chocolate products is relatively minor compared to other dietary sources. A recent United Nations draft report estimates exposure from cocoa products as approximately 5-6%, compared to approximately 50% from grains and cereals.
The chocolate industry has been working on preventative measures to counter the development of ochratoxin A in cocoa beans for more than 10 years and is fully supporting a United Nations Codex Alimentarius initiative to develop practices that prevent and reduce ochratoxin A in cocoa. Since both ochratoxin A and aflatoxin are produced from molds that arise in similar circumstances, practices leading to reduction of ochratoxin A will also reduce the development of aflatoxins. Additionally, the industry is involved in many programs promoting good agriculture and post-harvest practices and is monitoring closely levels of mycotoxins found in cocoa beans.