Patulin in Fruit

Patulin is a mycotoxin produced by several different genera of fungi, including Aspergillus, Penicillium and Byssochlamys. It is most commonly associated with moldy apples, but patulin has been detected in pears, bananas, peaches, pineapple, blueberries, apricots, cherries and grapes. It has also been detected in Turkish figs, and studies have indicated a correlation between the presence of patulin and aflatoxin.

The patulin molecule is broken down in the presence of sulfur dioxide. It is not associated with vinegars or alcoholic beverages due to the interaction with yeasts during fermentation.

There have been no documented cases of widespread illness due to patulin; although higher doses of the compound can cause nausea and vomiting. Rodent feeding studies have identified patulin as a mutagen that causes DNA damage.

FDA has identified patulin as a potential health risk in apple juice; sucrose in fruit juices keeps the mycotoxin stable and it does not degrade during heat treatments (pasteurization). The FDA Defect Action Limit (CPG Sec.510.150) for patulin in apple juice, apple juice concentrate and apple juice products is 50 ug/kg (parts per billion or ppb). Apple Juice products containing more than 50 ppb patulin are considered adulterated and must not be sold. Additional information on this limit and the FDA risk assessment for patulin can be found here.

The potential for patulin contamination can be greatly reduced with good harvest practices. Patulin is associated with fruit showing rot or other spoilage characteristics; this fruit should not be used for juice production. Poor storage conditions prior to processing can also contribute to mold growth/spoilage-it is important to move the fruit to refrigerated storage within 18 hours of harvest. The use of clean harvest bins and minimizing fruit damage during harvest will also reduce the risk of patulin contamination.

If you need samples tested for patulin, please contact our laboratory.