Review

The occurrence of aflatoxin M1 in industrial and traditional fermented milk: A systematic review study

Camilla de Souza1, Amin Mousavi Khaneghah2*, Carlos Augusto Fernandes Oliveira3*

1Department of Veterinary Medicine, School of Animal Science and Food Engineering, University of São Paulo, Pirassununga, SP, Brazil;

2Department of Food Science, School of Food Engineering, State University of Campinas, Campinas, SP, Brazil;

3Department of Food Engineering, School of Animal Science and Food Engineering, University of São Paulo, Pirassununga, SP, Brazil

Abstract

Aflatoxin M1 (AFM1) is a toxic secreted into the milk of animals fed with diets contaminated by aflatoxin B1, which can cause some adverse health effects in humans. The occurrence of AFM1 in dairy products varies based on several factors, including the fermentation process. In this article, the published citations from January 2000 to October 2020 regarding the AFM1 occurrence in industrial and traditional fermented milk were systemically reviewed. According to the findings, a reducing trend in the AFM1 contamination of fermented milk was observed over the years, mainly in traditional products. Despite this trend, further control measures besides the preventative approaches are needed to deal with the high levels of AFM1 in fermented milk.

Key words: AFM1, yogurt, fermented milk, occurrence, contamination, food safety, traditional dairy products

*Corresponding Authors: Amin Mousavi Khaneghah, Department of Food Science, School of Food Engineering, State University of Campinas, Campinas, SP, Brazil. Email: [email protected];

Carlos Augusto Fernandes Oliveira, Department of Food Engineering, School of Animal Science and Food Engineering, University of São Paulo. Av. Duque de Caxias Norte, 225, CEP 13635-900, Pirassununga, SP, Brazil. Email: [email protected]

Received: 28 August 2020; Accepted: 12 December 2020; Published: 9 February 2021

DOI: 10.15586/ijfs.v33iSP1.1982

© 2021 Codon Publications

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Introduction

Aflatoxins are toxic, secondary metabolites synthesized by some fungi species in the genus Aspergillus, mainly those belonging to the species A. flavus, A. nomius, and A. parasiticus (Ismaiel et al., 2020). Aflatoxins are considered the most important mycotoxins, given their carcinogenic and hepatotoxic effects on animals and humans (Bhat et al., 2010). Among several types of aflatoxins, the most frequent ones found as natural contaminants of foodstuffs are aflatoxins B1 (AFB1), B2 (AFB2), G1 (AFG1), and G2 (AFG2) (Nejad et al., 2019). While AFB1 possesses the highest toxicity, this toxin is also classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (2002). In addition, AFM1 and AFM2 are produced by hepatic biotransformation of AFB1 and AFB2, respectively, and maybe shed through the urine and milk of animals (Campagnollo et al., 2016; Imamura et al., 2015).

Milk and milk products have high nutritional and biological value, contributing to a balanced diet for human beings. Among dairy products, fermented milk is important, as it is consumed by a wide range of people, from infants to elders (Barukcic et al., 2018). Some fermented milk has, in their composition, probiotics that lead to improved digestibility, besides some other health-promoting factors, such as bioactive peptides and bacteriocins (Black, 2011). As AFM1 is highly stable through pasteurization, ultra-high temperature processing, and other processing methods used in dairy production, the toxin may be found not only in processed milk but also in dairy products (Jalili and Scotter, 2015). Yogurt and other fermented milk products are typically manufactured by fermentation of lactic acid in milk, both traditional and industrialized products with different levels of AFM1, given the range of pH values and fermentation conditions (Govaris et al., 2002). However, studies related to AFM1 contents in these fermented products are scarce and controversial (Campagnollo et al., 2016; Mahmood Fashandi et al., 2018; Mousavi Khaneghah et al., 2017). Figure 1 presents an overview processing steps of fermented milk and some relevant points regarding the AFM1 contamination of these products.

Figure 1. General processing flow chart of fermented milk and relevant steps regarding the aflatoxin M1 (AFM1) contamination during manufacture (in italic).

When fermented milk is produced using milk contaminated with AFM1, the mycotoxins are not eliminated at once, as they are resistant to most processing steps (Behfar et al., 2012). Therefore, to safeguard human health, maximum limits of AFM1 residues recommended in most countries range from 0 to 1.0 μg/L of milk (Iqbal et al., 2015). In the European Union (EU), the tolerable limit for AFM1 in milk is no more than 0.05 μg/L (European Commission, 2006), while in the United States and Brazil, a maximum level of 0.5 μg/L is accepted (Agência Nacional de vigilância sanitária, 2011; Food and Drug Administration, 2000).

Besides yogurts, other fermented products are also susceptible to AFM1 contamination, including traditional ones, such as Lala, kefir, and Doogh. Lala is traditional African fermented milk produced by natural fermentation or mesophilic cultures (Kuboka et al., 2019). Kefir is a dairy product rich in vitamins, essential amino acids, and minerals, made by fermenting the kefir grains (Gamba et al., 2016). Kefir is the most common probiotic product consumed in Europe and is associated with beneficial health effects related to homeostasis balance (Otles and Cagindi, 2003). Doogh is an Iranian fermented product made from yogurt added with potable water, sodium chloride, and probiotic cultures (Kiani et al., 2018). While several studies have been dedicated for evaluating the AFM1 levels in milk and other dairy products (Fallah, 2010; Kim et al., 2011; Rahmani et al., 2018), no systematical review was conducted to summarize the findings. Therefore, the current investigation was undertaken to systematically review the literature published in the last 20 years regarding the prevalence of AFM1 in industrial and traditional fermented milk globally.

Literature Search

A systematic literature search was conducted among some international databases such as PubMed, Science Direct, and Google Scholar (as gray literature) using the following key terms: “aflatoxins” OR “aflatoxin M1” OR “mycotoxins” AND “Occurrence” OR “Contamination” OR “prevalence” OR “incidence” OR “fermented milk” OR “dairy products” OR “cultured dairy” OR “yogurt” OR “Kefir.” All relevant articles published from January 2000 to October 2020 that investigated the prevalence of AFM1 in fermented milk were retrieved and screened for eligibility. In addition, the reference lists of included articles were also manually searched to identify other suitable studies.

After excluding unsuitable articles due to irrelevant content, 150 full texts of potentially eligible articles were downloaded. Then, the downloaded citations were examined for inclusion and criteria of final eligibility. Inclusion criteria were: (1) availability of full-text article, (2) original cross-sectional research studies (not reviews), (3) reporting of AFM1 prevalence among fermented, milk-based products, (4) indicating an accurate analytical method, and (5) published in the English in order to avoid any mistake during translation from other languages. The citations that did not meet these criteria were excluded. A total of 100 articles were excluded based on the abovementioned exclusion criteria according to PRISMA, as detailed in Figure 2. Finally, 50 articles that fulfilled the inclusion criteria were included in this review.

Figure 2. Flow chart describing the search and selection of articles evaluated in the study.

The Occurrence of Aflatoxin M1 in Fermented Milk

Table 1 presents the worldwide prevalence of AFM1 in yogurt and other fermented milk products during the last 20 years. Several studies reported a high prevalence of AFM1 in yogurt and other traditional products in African countries. This is consistent with the high prevalence of AFB1 reported in feedstuff used for dairy cows and AFM1 in milk in the African continent (Muaz et al., 2021). In addition to the climatic conditions that favor fungal growth in several geographic areas in Africa, the lack of effective regulation of aflatoxins in the food chain and the low public awareness of this risk are among important factors that contribute to high prevalence of aflatoxins in African countries (Wild et al., 2015). In Egypt, 63% of the yogurt samples exceed the EU’s AFM1 levels (Aiad and Aboelmakarem, 2013). The mean prevalence of AFM1 in Egyptian yogurt samples was higher in the winter than in the summer. Coherently, higher AFM1 levels in milk samples have also been reported in the winter season in different countries (Bilandzic et al., 2014; De Roma et al., 2017; Fallah, 2010; Ruangwises and Ruangwises, 2010). The reasons for such a higher prevalence of AFM1 in milk and fermented products during the winter are not well established but may involve higher consumption of AFB1-contaminated feed by dairy cows during this period, as well as differences in the feed storage and diet composition, and rainfall effects (Fallah, 2010; Hajmohammadi et al., 2020). After incubation of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis into the fermented products, a decrease in mycotoxin prevalence was observed at the end of the storage period (Ibrahim et al., 2016). In this regard, the percentages of Egyptian Zabadi yogurt samples exceeding the European limits in 2016 and 2017 were 12.5 and 18.7, respectively. However, these prevalence data were lower in this product than in milk and cheese, mainly in the winter (Ismaiel et al., 2020). In Nigeria, 20 samples of yogurt were analyzed, and 10% were contaminated with AFM1 (Anthony et al., 2016). In a study carried out in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, AFM1 was analyzed in samples of fermented milk and yogurt, and contamination was observed in levels above 0.05 μg/L (Langat et al., 2016). In Dagoretti and the Westland area belonging to Nairobi, 77 and 57% of Lala and yogurt, respectively, contained detectable levels of AFM1 (Lindahl et al., 2018). In Nairobi, a study with pasteurized yogurt and Lala revealed that all samples had AFM1 above the detection limit (5ng/kg). After undergoing an additional experimental fermentation, both products showed a significant reduction in AFM1 prevalence (Kuboka et al., 2019). The prevalence of AFM1 in yogurt and milk samples was evaluated in Burundi in the Republic of the Congo, and 29% of them showed levels much higher than the limits recommended by the EU (Udomkun et al., 2018).

Table 1. Occurrence of aflatoxin M1 in yogurt and other fermented milks reported in the last 20 years.

Country Type of product Samples analyzed (n) Positive samples LOD
(ng/kg or L)
Concentration (ng/kg or L) Analytical method Reference
n % Range Mean
Africa:                  
Egypt Yogurta 30 8 26 5 11.40–98.80 28.41 ELISA Aiad and Aboelmakarem (2013)
Egypt (Winter) Yogurt 24 12 50 NR 56.60–84.14 64.68 HPLC Ibrahim et al. (2016)
Egypt (Summer) Yogurt 24 12 50 NR 31.46–66.05 39.13 HPLC Ibrahim et al. (2016)
Egypt (2016 production) Yogurt Zabady 32 4 12 50 130–240 185 HPLC Ismaiel et al. (2020)
Egypt (2017 production) Yogurt Zabady 32 6 19 50 100–170 130 HPLC Ismaiel et al. (2020)
Nigeria Yogurt 2 10 10 1 583.5–647.0 0.62 µg/L HPLC Anthony et al. (2016)
Burundi Yogurt 6 6 100 NR 8,200–63,200 33,500 ELISA Udomkun et al. (2018)
Kenya Yogurt 8 3 37 NR < LOD—690 NR ELISA Langat et al. (2016)
Kenya Yogurt 21 12 57 2 17–1,100 134 ELISA Lindahl et al. (2018)
Kenya Lala 27 8 30 2 12–160 48 ELISA Lindahl et al. (2018)
Kenya Yogurt 17 13 77 2 26–270 96 ELISA Lindahl et al. (2018)
Kenya Lala 8 5 63 2 10–340 111 ELISA Lindahl et al. (2018)
Kenya Yogurt NR NR NR 5 NR 379.3 ELISA Kuboka et al. (2019)
Kenya Lala NR NR NR 5 NR 379.3 ELISA Kuboka et al. (2019)
Congo Republic Yogurt 2 3 67 NR 4,800–26,000 16,100 ELISA Udomkun et al. (2018)
Americas:                  
Brazil Yogurt 53 47 72 3 10–529 NR HPLC Iha et al. (2011)
Brasil Yogurt 3 3 100 3 75.1–112.9 94 HPLC Iha et al. (2013)
Asia:                  
Qatar Yogurt 21 16 76 NR 4.16–38.21 31.32 ELISA Hassan et al. (2018)
China Yogurt 27 15 55 5 4.0–47.0 17.2 HPLC Guo et al. (2019)
China Yogurt NR NR NR 0.6 NR NR ELISA Zhou et al. (2019)
South Korea Yogurt 55 15 27 20 20–150 51 HPLC Yoon et al. (2016)
South Korea Yogurt 60 50 83 2 3–172 29 ELISA Kim et al. (2000)
Iran Pasteurized yogurt 40 40 100 NR 2.1–61.7 15.1 ELISA Barjesteh et al. (2010)
Iran Yogurt 10 10 100 NR 7–53 25 ELISA Barjesteh et al. (2010)
Iran Yogurt 68 45 66 12 15–119 32 HPLC Fallah (2010)
Iran Traditional yogurt 60 14 23 12.5 15–36 17 HPLC Fallah et al. (2011)
Iran Industrial yogurt 61 30 49 12.5 15–102 26 HPLC Fallah et al. (2011)
Iran Traditional Doogh 65 9 14 12.5 13–29 NR HPLC Fallah et al. (2011)
Iran Industrial Doogh 71 16 22.5 12.5 13–53 NR HPLC Fallah et al. (2011)
Iran Yogurt 60 48 80 10 19.7–319.4 130.5 ELISA Rahimi (2012)
Iran Yogurt 60 59 98 NR 6.2–87 51.7 ELISA Issazadeh et al. (2012)
Iran Yogurt 13 13 100 NR 5–36 13.5 ELISA Arast et al. (2012)
Iran Yogurt 40 14 35 NR 11.4–115.8 130.5 ELISA Nilchian and Rahimi (2012)
Iran Yogurt 80 77 96 5 < LOD—100 29.1 ELISA Mason et al. (2015)
Iran Yogurt 42 10 24 1 6.3–21.3 15.1 ELISA Bahrami et al. (2015)
Iran Doogh 44 6 14 NR 7.0–12.1 9.0 ELISA Bahrami et al. (2015)
Iran Yogurt 90 90 100 NR 5.0–83.0 32.1 ELISA Nikbakht et al. (2016)
Iran Yogurt 18 15 83 NR 7.8–12.1 10.3 ELISA Sohrabi and Gharahkoli (2016)
Iraq Yogurt 32 32 100 NR 0.16–42.74 16.92 ELISA Najim and Jasim (2014)
Iraq Traditional yogurt 20 15 75 NR 22.2–172.9 103.9 HPLC Mossawei et al. (2016)
Iraq Yogurt 20 10 50 NR 30.5-107.4 58.37 HPLC Mossawei et al. (2016)
Kuwait Yogurt 2 1 50 10 NR NR HPLC Ivastava et al. (2001)
Lebanon Yogurt 64 21 33 5 5–50 NR ELISA El Khoury et al. (2010)
Lebanon Yogurt NR NR 72 NR NR 24.55 ELISA Hassan and Kassaify (2014)
Lebanon Yogurt 28 18 64 3.2 15–545 91 HPLC Daou et al. (2020)
Lebanon Strained yogurt 27 24 89 3.2 37–1,843 201 HPLC Daou et al. (2020)
Lebanon Yogurt Ayran 9 8 89 3.2 20–315 242 HPLC Daou et al. (2020)
Malaysia Yogurt 5 2 40 2 7.5–31 25.4 ELISA Nadira et al. (2016)
Pakistan Yogurt 96 59 61 4 4.0–615.8 90.4 HPLC Iqbal and Asi (2013)
Pakistan (Winter) Yogurt 51 13 25 4 NR 53 HPLC Iqbal et al. (2013)
Pakistan (Summer) Yogurt 45 8 18 4 NR 19 HPLC Iqbal et al. (2013)
Pakistan (Winter) Plain yogurt 36 15 42 0.4 NR 63.6 HPLC Iqbal et al. (2017)
Pakistan (Winter) Flavored yogurt 30 17 57 0.4 NR 50.5 HPLC Iqbal et al. (2017)
Paquistão (Summer) Plain yogurt 30 11 37 0.4 NR 59.6 HPLC Iqbal et al. (2017)
Pakistan (Summer) Flavored yogurt 25 10 40 0.4 NR 45.3 HPLC Iqbal et al. (2017)
Taiwan Yogurt 24 3 12 5 7–44 NR HPLC Lin et al. (2004)
Turkey Yogurt 40 32 80 50 61.61–365.64 NR ELISA Gurbay et al. (2006)
Turkey Plain yogurt 104 68 65 NR 1–100 NR ELISA Akkaya et al. (2006)
Turkey Yogurt with fruits 21 7 33 NR 1–100 NR ELISA Akkaya et al. (2006)
Turkey Yogurt 52 29 56 NR 1–150 NR ELISA Akkaya et al. (2006)
Turkey Yogurt 80 70 87 5 10–475 66.1 ELISA Atasever et al. (2011)
Turkey Yogurt Ayran 80 72 90 5 6–264 36.5 ELISA Atasever et al. (2011)
Turkey Yogurt 50 10 20 2 40.62–72.04 55.28 ELISA Temamogullari and Kanici (2014)
Turkey Yogurt 19 17 89 100 16–107.2 47.92 HPLC Sarica et al. (2014)
Turkey Yogurt 60 2 3 5 24–28 NR HPLC Sahin et al. (2016)
Turkey Yogurt Ayran 60 1 2 5 NR 5 HPLC Sahin et al. (2016)
Europe:                  
Italy Yogurt 120 73 61 1 1.0–32.2 9.1 HPLC Galvano et al. (2001)
Portugal Plain yogurt 48 2 4 10 43.0–45.0 44.0 HPLC Martins and Martins (2004)
Portugal Yogurt with fruits 48 16 33 10 19.0–98.0 51.12 HPLC Martins and Martins (2004)
Serbia Fermented milks 302 NR NR 6 25–500 190 ELISA Keskic et al. (2016)
Spain Yogurt 72 2 3 25 NR 38.34 ELISA Cano-Sancho et al. (2010)
Spain Yogurt 6 2 33 25 NR 21.6 ELISA Cano-Sancho et al. (2015)

aWithout any further designation, the term “yogurt” applies to industrial products.

ELISA: enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay; HPLC: high-performance liquid chromatography; LC-MS/MS: liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry. NR: not reported.

Few studies considering the prevalence of AFM1 in fermented milk produced in the Americas and European countries were conducted (Table 1). In Brazil, 95% of the samples of yogurt or dairy-based drinks from the Ribeirão Preto region were contaminated with AFM1 (Iha et al., 2011). Interestingly, while the naturally contaminated yogurts from were incubated for 12 h, there was a reduction about 6% in the toxin levels (Iha et al., 2013). The fermentation process in yogurts contributes to reducing the concentration of AFM1 due to factors such as low pH, production of organic acids, and the presence of bacteria that synthesize lactic acid and other byproducts of fermentation (Govaris et al., 2002).

As for the European countries, AFM1 was detected in the Cataluña region of Spain among 2.8% of the samples analyzed, the only one region that showed contamination above that determined by the EU (Cano-Sancho et al., 2010). In another study, however, 33% of yogurt samples from the same Spanish region were contaminated with AFM1, with none of them exceeding the European limits (Cano-Sancho et al., 2015). In samples of yogurt from Italian supermarkets analyzed in 1996, 61% showed levels of AFM1, but similar to Spain, none of them exceeded the limits determined by the EU (Galvano et al., 2001). In a study carried out in Portugal, 4.2% of the samples of plain yogurt and 33.3% of the samples of strawberry yogurt were contaminated with this toxin (Martins and Martins, 2004). In Serbia, the mean concentrations of AFM1 in dairy products and fermented dairy drinks in 2015 were 0.018 and 0.019 µg/kg, respectively, with 5.86 and 2.64% of the samples exceeding the limits determined by the EU. It was also observed that the toxin levels were more significant in the winter and autumn in both products (Keskic et al., 2016).

The majority of data describing the prevalence of AFM1 in fermented milk were provided by studies in Asian countries (Table 1). In Qatar, the incidence of AFM1 in yogurts was analyzed using an immunoenzymatic assay (ELISA); 76.1% of the samples were positive. However, none of them showed contamination levels above the EU maximum limits, posing no public health threats in this country (Hassan et al., 2018). AFM1 prevalence in yogurts produced with buffalo milk in different dairy factories in Southern China were evaluated, and none of the samples had levels greater than the limit of 500 ng/kg determined in the country(Guo et al., 2019). Another study carried out with cow milk showed AFM1 levels inside the limit determined by this country and the EU (Zhou et al., 2019). In South Korea, 27.27% of the yogurt samples showed AFM1, but none of them was above the limit determined by the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (0.5 μg/kg) (Kim-Soo et al., 2016). However, in a previous study, 83% of yogurt samples were contaminated by this toxin (Kim et al., 2000).

In the Mazandaran province of Iran, 100% of the pasteurized yogurt and local yogurt samples were contaminated with AFM1 (Barjesteh et al., 2010). However, in another study in Iran, 20.6% of yogurt samples were contaminated with levels above the limits determined by the local regulations (0.05 µg/L) and were greater in the winter than the summer (Fallah, 2010). Moreover, samples of traditional and industrial yogurt and Doogh were evaluated, and the AFM1 incidences in both these industrial products were greater in the autumn and winter than in traditional ones. As for Doogh samples, the contamination levels were low, and no significant seasonal effect was observed (Fallah et al., 2011). Seasonal factors may influence the presence of the toxin in these products, as some studies observed higher levels of contamination in milk samples in the autumn and winter compared with summer and spring (Kamkar, 2005). These variations may be related to the procedures during processing, degree of milk contamination, type of yogurt, fermentation conditions, geographic regions, season, country, and analytical methods used to detect these toxins (Di Guan et al., 2011). In general, yogurts have shown lower contamination levels with AFM1 than cheese (Rabie et al., 2019), as the fermentation process contributes to reducing the concentration of AFM1 because of low pH and the production of fermentation-related byproducts such as organic acids, including lactic acid, among other factors (Campagnollo et al., 2016). In milk, AFM1 binds to casein, and the modifications on its structure caused by pH reduction during fermentation may lead to changes in this bound (Govaris et al., 2002). However, the exact mechanisms involved in the mycotoxin decontamination during the fermentation process are not entirely understood. Several experimental data indicate that aflatoxin reduction in fermented products occurs through its binding to the cell wall components of starter cultures, as reviewed by Muaz et al. (2021), or through degradation of the toxins by microbial enzymes into less toxic substances (Guo et al., 2020). The most studied bacteria with practical AFM1-binding abilities are lactic acid bacteria belonging to the genus Levilactobacillus spp. (former Lactobacillus sp.) such as L. rhamnosus and L. plantarum (Sadiq et al., 2019). Regarding bio-detoxification, several species in the genera Pseudomonas, Rhodococcus, Streptomyces, Bacillus, and Pleurotus have been reported to be capable of degrading aflatoxins (Guo et al., 2020). However, these bacterial species are not allowed to be used as starter cultures in fermented foods. The combination of fermentation with some emerging technologies, such as ultrasound, ohmic heating, and cold plasma, has been proposed, aiming at improving aflatoxin’s detoxification (Gavahian et al., 2021).

In Shahr-e Kord, Iran, AFM1 was detected in 35% of the yogurt samples, but not above the EU’s acceptable limit (Nilchian and Rahimi, 2012). In Gilan, another province of Iran, 63.33% of the yogurt samples were above the EU limits (Issazadeh et al., 2012). In central Iran, yogurt samples showed mean AFM1 contamination levels of 13.55 ng/kg (Arast et al., 2012). In Isfahan, 80% of the yogurt samples were contaminated with this toxin, and 5% of them were above the limit determined by the EU (Rahimi, 2014). In traditional Iranian yogurts, these toxin levels were more significant than in industrialized products (Mason et al., 2015). Still, in Iran, aflatoxins levels were evaluated in yogurt and Doogh samples, with 23.8 and 13.6%, respectively, yielding positive results (Bahrami et al., 2016). However, in Iran, 100% of the yogurt samples collected in 2014 were contaminated, with 22.22% above the AFM1 limits determined by the EU (Nikbakht et al., 2016). On the other hand, 83.3% of the yogurt samples were positive for AFM1 in another study, although none of them was above the limits determined by the Institute of Standards and Industrial Research of Iran (50 ng/L) (Sohrabi and Gharahkoli, 2016).

In Bagdad, the capital of Iraq, 100% of the yogurt samples from supermarkets were contaminated with AFM1 (Jasim and Najim, 2014). A study carried out with local and imported yogurts in Iraq found that 75 and 50%, respectively, of the samples contained AFM1 (Al-Mossawei et al., 2016). In Kuwait, one sample out of two yogurt samples produced in a local farm was contaminated with AFM1 (Ivastava et al., 2001). In Lebanon, 32.81% of the samples analyzed showed the presence of AFM1, with 6.25% of them exceeding the limits determined by the EU (El Khoury et al., 2011). Still, in Lebanon, 72% of the yogurt samples analyzed showed AFM1, with 13% above the recommended limits (Hassan and Kassaify, 2014). In another study carried out in Lebanon with different yogurt types, it was observed that 64.3% of the samples were positive for AFM1, and 35.7% were above the limits recommended by the EU. Strained yogurt, popularly consumed by the Lebanese population, showed 88.9% contaminated samples, with 81.5% above the EU acceptable limits. The authors suggested that these findings may be due to low-quality powdered milk in the production, leading to high levels of contamination in the final product. As for the yogurt drink Ayran, 88.9% of the samples were positive, with 44.4% above the EU recommended limits (Daou et al., 2020).

In Malaysia, 40% of the yogurt samples collected in January 2014 were contaminated with AFM1, although none of them was above the limits determined by the EU (Nadira et al., 2017). A study carried out in the winter and summer in Pakistan showed that 37 and 29% of the samples of yogurt, respectively, were contaminated with this toxin, and were above the country limits (0.05 μg/L) (Iqbal et al., 2013). In Punjab, a province of Pakistan, 47% of the yogurt samples were above the legal limits (Iqbal and Asi, 2013). Corroborating these findings, another study carried out in the winter and summer showed that plain yogurt and flavored yogurt samples were contaminated with AFM1 by 20 and 16%, respectively, and were above the levels determined by the EU during the summer. In the winter, 27.7 and 40%, respectively, were above the EU limits, posing a considerable threat to the population’s health (Iqbal et al., 2017). In Taiwan, 12.5% of the samples of yogurt beverages were contaminated with AFM1 but at low levels (Lin et al., 2004).

On the other hand, in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, 32% of the yogurt samples showed AFM1 levels above the country’s limit (Gurbay et al., 2006). Also, in Turkey, 11.53% of the yogurt samples, 9.52% of fruit yogurt samples, and 21.15% of strained yogurt samples showed AFM1 levels greater than those allowed by the existing regulations in the country (50 ng/kg) (Akkaya et al., 2006). Corroborating this finding, 20% of the yogurt samples evaluated in other studies showed contamination levels above the acceptable limits by Turkish Food Codex (2008) (50 ng/kg) (Atasever et al., 2011; Temamogullari and Kanici, 2014). Another study in Ankara showed that 89.5% of the yogurt samples were contaminated with AFM1. Only 5 were above the limit determined by the local regulations (Sarica et al., 2015). On the other hand, in Turkey, only two yogurt samples and one sample of Ayran showed AFM1, but the levels were below the EU limits (Sahin et al., 2016).

Concluding Remarks

Several studies regarding the prevalence of AFM1 in industrial and traditional fermented milk were conducted worldwide in the past 20 years, indicating high frequencies of positive samples at low levels of contamination among different industrial and traditional fermented milk products. A decreasing trend in the contamination of fermented milk products was observed over the years, mainly in traditional products. However, AFM1 contamination in fermented milk at levels higher than the recommended tolerable limits was reported in African and Asian countries. Continuous monitoring and controlling actions from both manufacturers and regulatory bodies are essential to reduce the AFM1 contamination levels in industrial and traditional fermented milk. Further studies to improve fermentation performance to reduce the AFM1 contents in contaminated milk and other similar products are recommended.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest relevant to this study.

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