Aberdeen University scientists have been conducting groundbreaking research into how food contaminants affect the human digestive system.
This is one of very few investigations to be carried out in this field.
A team from the Rowett Institute have been specifically focusing on fungal toxins known as mycotoxins.
Mycotoxins can be present in cereal crops, like wheat, oats and barley.
Plants can bind mycotoxins to sugars and it is unknown whether the mycotoxins bound to sugars are released in the human body after consuming contaminated food.
The European Commission has set stringent guidelines on the maximum levels allowed in food but there are at present no regulations on the amounts of masked mycotoxins.
The research team have discovered that in the small intestines, mycotoxins remain stable but once they move to the large intestine they are broken down by human gut activity and then swiftly released – which could lead to exposure.
Dr Silvia Gratz, who was part of the research team, said: “The findings from this study have enabled the Food Standards Agency to have a better understanding of the significance of masked mycotoxins in the diet and their fate in the human gut.
“The results may be used in future consideration of risks from their presence in food.”