Organic Food Production and Its Influence on Naturally Occurring Toxins

  • Carl K. Winter


The levels of natural plant toxins and mycotoxins in foods may be influenced by the methods used (organic vs. conventional) for agricultural production. Research findings suggest that organic foods may possess higher levels of natural plant toxins than conventional foods based upon mechanistic similarities between natural plant toxin production and the production of plant secondary metabolites of nutritional interest. Specific field research confirming such differences has not yet been conducted. Mycotoxin levels in organic foods may also be higher as a few studies have demonstrated that synthetic fungicides and insecticides used in conventional production can reduce plant pathogen populations. Food product analysis, however, has not demonstrated consistent findings of higher levels of mycotoxins in organic foods as compared with conventional foods. In the event that subsequent research does conclusively demonstrate that differences exist in the levels of naturally occurring toxins in organic versus conventional foods, the toxicological significance of the differences, if any, still requires determination.


Natural toxins Mycotoxins Plant secondary metabolites Plant stress Pesticides 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ames, B.N., Magaw, R., and Gold, L.S., 1987, Ranking possible carcinogenic hazards, Science 236: 271–280.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ames, B.N., Profet, M., and Gold, L.S., 1990, Dietary pesticides (99.99% all natural), Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 87: 7777–7781.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ames, B.N., and Gold, L.S., 1991, Risk assessment of pesticides, Chem. Eng. News 69: 28–32, 48–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arino, A.A., and Bullerman, L.B., 1993, Growth and aflatoxin production by Aspergillus parasiticus NRRL 2999 as affected by the fungicide iprodione, J. Food Prot. 56: 718–721.Google Scholar
  5. Asami, D.K., Hong, Y.J., Barrett, D.M., and Mitchell, A.E., 2003, Comparison of the total phenolic and ascorbic acid content of freeze-dried and air-dried marionberry, strawberry, and corn grown using conventional, organic, and sustainable agricultural practices, J. Agric. Food Chem. 51: 1237–1241.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beier, R.C., and Oertli, E.H., 1983, Psoralen and other linear furanocoumarins as phytoalexins in celery, Phytochemistry 22: 2595–2597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beier, R.C., and Nigg, H.N., 1994, Toxicology of naturally occurring chemicals in food, in: Foodborne Disease Handbook: Diseases Caused by Hazardous Substances, Hui, Y.H., Gorham, J.R., Murrell, K.D., and Cliver, D.O., eds., Marcel Dekker, New York, pp. 1–186.Google Scholar
  8. Birzele, B., Meier, A., Hindorf, H., Kramer, J., and Dehne, H.W., 2002, Epidemology of Fusarium infection and deoxynivalenol content in winter wheat in the Rhineland, Germany, Eur. J. Plant Pathol. 108: 667–673.Google Scholar
  9. Bourn, D., and Prescott, J., 2002, A comparison of the nutritional value, sensory qualities, and food safety of organically and conventionally produced foods, Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr. 42: 1–34.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Calori-Domingues, M.A., and Fonseca, H., 1995, Laboratory evaluation of chemical control of aflatoxin producton in unshelled peanuts (Arachis hypogaea L.), Food Addit. Contam. 12: 347–350.Google Scholar
  11. Carbonaro, M., and Mattera, M., 2001, Polyphenoloxidase activity and polyphenol levels in organically and conventionally grown peach (Prunus persica L., Regina bianca) and pear (Pyrus communis L., cv. Williams), Food Chem. 72: 419–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Caris-Veyrat, C., Amiot, M.J., Tyssandier, V., Grasselly, D., Buret, M., Mikolajczak, M., Guilland, J.C., Bouteloup-Demange, C., and Borel, P., 2004, Influence of organic versus conventional agricultural practice on the antioxidant microconstituent content of tomatoes and derived purees; consequences on antioxidant plasma status in humans, J. Agric. Food Chem. 52: 6503–6509.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chourasia, H.K., 1992, Control of aflatoxin production with fungicides, Nat. Acad. Sci. Letters (India) 15: 243–246.Google Scholar
  14. Cirillo, T., Ritieni, A., Visone, M., and Cocchieri, R.A., 2003, Evaluation of conventional and organic Italian foodstuffs for deoxynivalenol and fumonisins B1 and B2, J. Agric. Food Chem. 51: 8128–8131.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Coulombe, R.A., 2000, Natural toxins and chemopreventives in plants, in: Food Toxicology, Helferich, W., and Winter, C.K., eds., CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp.137–162.Google Scholar
  16. Czerwiecki, L., Dzajkowska, D., and Witkowska-Gwiazdowska, A., 2002, On ochratoxin A and fungal flora in Polish cereals from conventional and ecological farms. Part 1: Occurrence of ochratoxin A and fungi in cereals in 1997, Food Add. Contam. 19: 470–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dercks, W., Trumble, J.T., and Winter, C.K., 1990, Impact of atmospheric pollution alters linear furanocoumarins content in celery, J. Chem. Ecol. 16: 443–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Duncan, C., Li, H., Kykhuizen, R., Frazer, R., Johnston, P., MacKnight, G., Smith, L., Lamza, K., McKenzie, H., Batt, L., Kelly, D., Golden, M., Benjamin, N., and Leifert, C., 1997, Protection against oral and gastrointestinal diseases: Importance of dietary nitrate intake, oral nitrate reduction and enterosalivary nitrate circulation, Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 118A: 939–948.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. El-Morshedy, M.M.F., and Aziz, N.H., 1995, Effects of fenamiphos, carbofuran, and aldicarb on zearalenone production by toxigenic Fusarium spp. Contaminating roots and fruits of tomato, Bull. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 54: 514–518.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Finamore, A., Britti, M.S., Roselli, M., Bellovino, D., Gaetani, S., and Mengheri, E., 2004, Novel approach for food safety evaluation. Results of a pilot experiment to evaluate organic and conventional foods, J. Agric. Food Chem. 52: 7425–7431.Google Scholar
  21. Friedman, M., and McDonald, G.M., 1997, Potato glycoalkaloids: Chemistry, analysis, safety, and plant physiology, Crit. Rev. Plant Sci. 16: 55–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Friedman, M., 2006, Potato glycoalkaloids and metabolites: Roles in the plant and in the diet, J. Agric. Food Chem. 54: 8655–8681.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hakkinen, S.H., and Torronen, A.R., 2000, Content of flavonols and selected phenolic acids in strawberries and Vaccinium species: Influence of cultivar, cultivation site and technique, Food Res. Int. 33: 517–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jorgensen, K., and Jacobsen, J.S., 2002, Occurrence of ochratoxin A in Danish wheat and rye, 1992–1999, Food Add. Contam. 19: 1184–1189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Komives, T., and Casida, J.E., 1983, Aciflourfen increases the leaf content of phytoalexins and stress metabolites in several crops, J. Agric. Food Chem. 31: 751–755.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Leblanc, J.C., Malmauret, L., Delobel, D., and Verger, P., 2002, Simulation of the exposure to deoxynivalenol of French consumers of organic and conventional foodstuffs, Reg. Toxicol. Pharmacol. 36: 149–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Miceli, A., Negro, C., Tommasi, L., and De Leo, P., 2003, Polyphenols, resveratrol, antioxidant activity and ochratoxin A contamination in red table wines, controlled denomination of origin (DOC) wines and wines obtained from organic farming, J. Wine Res. 14: 115–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mikkonen, T.P., Maatta, K.R., Hukkanen, A.T., Kokko, H.I., Torronen, A.R., Karenlampi, S.O., and Karjalainen, R.O., 2001, Flavonol content varies among black currant cultivars, J. Agric. Food Chem. 49: 3274–3277.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mitchell, A.E., Hong, Y.J., Koh, E., Barrett, D.M., Bryant, D.E., Denison, R.F., and Kaffka, S., 2007, Ten-year comparison of the influence of organic and conventional crop management practices on the content of flavonoids in tomatoes, J. Agric. Food Chem. 55: 6154–6159.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Murphy, P.A., Hendrich, S., Landgren, C., and Bryant, C.M., 2006, Food mycotoxins: An update, J. Food Sci. 71: R51–R65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. NRC, 1996, Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet, National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 417p.Google Scholar
  32. Organic Trade Association, 2006, U.S. Organic Industry Overview. OTA’s 2006 Manufacturer Survey, Organic Trade Association, Greenfield, MA.Google Scholar
  33. Park, D.L., Ayala, C.E., Guzman-Perez, S.E., Lopez-Garcia, R., and Trujillo, S., 2000, Microbial toxins in foods: Algal, fungal, and bacterial, in: Food Toxicology, Helferich, W., and Winter, C.K., eds., CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 93–136.Google Scholar
  34. Schollenberger, M., Jara, H.T., Suchy, S., Drochner, W., and Muller, H.M., 2002, Fusarium toxins in wheat flour collected in an area in southwest Germany, Int. J. Food Microbiol. 72: 85–89.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Seligman, P.J., Mathias, C.G., O’Malley, M.A., Beier, R.C., Fehrs, L.H., Serrill, W.S., and Halperin, W.E., 1987, Phytophotodermatitis from celery among grocery store workers, Arch. Dermatol. 123: 1478–1482.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sydenham, E.W., Thiel, P.G., Marasas, W.F.O., Shephard, G.S., Van Schalkwyk, D.J., and Koch, K.R., 1990, Natural occurrence of some Fusarium mycotoxins in corn from low and high esophageal cancer prevalence areas of the Transkei, Southern Africa, J. Agric. Food Chem. 38: 1900–1903.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Van Bruggen, A.H.C., 1995, Plant disease severity in high-input compared to reduced input and organic farming systems, Plant Dis. 79: 976–982.Google Scholar
  38. Veberic, R., Trobec, M., Herbinger, K., Hofer, M., Grill, D., and Stampar, F., 2005, Phenolic compounds in some apple (Malus domestica Borkh) cultivars of organic and integrated production, J. Sci. Food Agric. 85: 1687–1694.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Whole Foods Market, 2005, Whole Foods Market Organic Trend Tracker, Whole Foods Market, Austin, TX.Google Scholar
  40. Williams, P.R.D., and Hammitt, J.K., 2001, Perceived risks of conventional and organic produce: Pesticides, pathogens, and natural toxins, Risk Anal. 21: 319–330.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Winter, C.K., 1990, Natural toxins in the human food chain, in: Chemicals in the Human Food Chain, Winter, C.K., Seiber, J.M., and Nuckton, C.F., eds., Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, pp. 2218–2238.Google Scholar
  42. Winter, C.K., and Davis, S.F., 2006, Organic foods, J. Food Sci. 71: R117–R124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Woese, K., Lange, D., Boess, C., and Bogl, K.W., 1997, A comparison of organically and conventionally grown foods – Results of a review of the relevant literature, J. Sci. Food Agric. 74: 281–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Worthington, V., 2001, Nutritional quality of organic versus conventional fruits, vegetables, and grains J. Alt. Complement. Med. 7: 161–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Young, J.E., Xhao, X., Carey, E.E., Welti, R., Yang, S.S., and Wang, W., 2005, Phytochemical phenolics in organically grown vegetables, Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 49: 1136–1142.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl K. Winter
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Food Science and TechnologyUniversity of California DavisUSA

Personalised recommendations