Unit responsible: 

Analysing and evaluating mycotoxins, bacterial toxins, phycotoxins and plant toxins in food and feed

The unit Toxins is a center of excellence for the chemical analysis and scientific research on the occurrence of natural toxins in the food chain and the associated risks for public health. 
Food and feed may contain harmful toxins that are naturally produced by living organisms. Roughly 25 percent of the world’s marketed food (e.g cereals, nuts…) contains mycotoxins produced by moulds. Bacterial toxins are produced by micro-organisms, including bacteria and fungi. Some bacterial toxins, such as Botulinum neurotoxins, are the most potent natural toxins known. Shellfish (mussels, oysters,..), fish and other marine organisms may accumulate phycotoxins produced by microalgae. Plant toxins are plant metabolites that serve as chemical defense against predators or insects. They have been identified e.g. in tea and honey.

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In collaboration with the European Reference Laboratories and the Belgian Food Safety Authority, we provide scientific support to the national and international competent authorities to ensure safe and healthy food for everyone. Therefore we are constantly improving and developing our analytical skills and techniques and keeping track of new developments and emerging risks through a network of scientific collaborations and (inter)national research projects.

As the Belgian National Reference Laboratory, we develop and validate new detection methods and inspect food and feed for the presence of mycotoxins, phycotoxins and plant toxins. We provide expert advice and training including the standardisation of official methods of analysis on a European level. We support control laboratories via the organization of proficiency tests, the production of reference materials and the organization of workshops and training sessions.

As an active partner in the Better Training for Safer Food initiative of the European Commission we provide technical knowledge and hands-on training on analytical techniques for mycotoxins to support developing countries on safety issues for the consumption and import of foodstuffs in the EU.

By identifying bacterial toxins (mainly enterotoxin types), we contribute in the follow up of the food intoxication cases in Belgium coordinated by reference centres for intoxications.

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