People worldwide are concerned about the effects of climate change we are facing, including increasing temperatures, extreme droughts and heavy rainfall. These can have a big impact on the yield and quality of food crops, and thus also on food safety. One of the important food safety concerns is a higher risk for contamination of crops with mycotoxins. This is due to an increased susceptibility of crops to infection by mycotoxin-producing molds, caused by increased temperatures and extreme weather conditions.
During warm and dry seasons, some crops, such as corn, are more vulnerable to infection by Fusarium verticillioides and Aspergillus flavus. This comes along with a higher contamination of fumonisins and aflatoxins. In temperate regions, a higher number of rainy days increases the risk of crop infection with Fusarium culmorum and graminearum, which both produce DON and ZEA.
Another concern is how climate change affects the persistence of specific molds on crops in certain areas, and thus also the degree of contamination of these crops with specific mycotoxins: F. culmorum, for example, has long been the prevalent species in cooler temperate climates in Europe. However, in the last decade F. graminearum has become the dominant species because of its higher temperature optimum. Since F. graminearum generally produces more mycotoxins compared to F. culmorum, therefore mycotoxin concentrations may increase.