What is Ochratoxin A & Why it Matters?
Ochratoxin A or OTA is a potent toxic metabolite (mycotoxin), produced by the fungi family (mainly Aspergillus & Penicillium), that can cause serious harm to human health. OTA is found mainly in cereal-based products and coffee.
After ingestion, owing to its acidic nature, OTA is easily absorbed in the stomach which binds strongly to serum proteins. OTA then is then transported via the portal venal system that carries nutrients from digestion to the liver for storage and metabolisation. Long term exposure to OTA has been scientifically held to be responsible for endemic Nephropathy (end-stage renal disease or kidney failure) and Urothelial tumours (bladder tumours/cancer). Clearly, large does of OTA is not good for us from a health perspective!
Ochratoxin A in Coffee
As mentioned, although not exclusive to these categories, OTA is most prevalent in cereal-based foods and coffee. Since the 1980's, several studies of OTA in green coffee (un-roasted) has revealed that OTA is present in coffee originated from all major growing regions with African coffees containing the highest levels of OTA. Of the samples tested from Africa, green coffee originating from the DR Congo contained the highest concentrations of OTA with up to 48 ppb (parts per notation).
Poorer growing conditions are one of the main elements attributed to the formation of OTA in coffee.