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Like all cereals, oat is commonly (nearly systematically) contaminated by several types of mycotoxin (produced by molds) known to cause cancer{1}. Oat is one of the most infected cereals{2}. Unless the package looks or smells bad (which is unlikely, and even dangerous to touch since some mycotoxin can penetrate through the skin), there is no way to know its level of toxicity.{3} Eating a large quantity of oatmeal (eg 250g/day) could thus be problematic, especially in a country that doesn't take this kind of food contamination seriously (even if the customer store the oats in a dry environment, it's too late: the molds have already grown (eg. while stored in a humid silo or warehouse, or during transportation).

There isn't much information about how to reduce mycotoxin in oat specifically but some studies done on other cereals suggest some procedures:

  • "Heating and cooking under pressure can destroy nearly 70% of aflatoxin in rice compared to under atmospheric pressure only 50% destroyed (37)".{4}

  • According to several studies, mycotoxins can be totally eliminated by cooking it at 160-180°C for 30 minutes {5}. But it doesn't make sens "Since [...] long-time cooking and overheating would destruct essential vitamins and amino acids in treated food".{4} (And it would not be easy to do: is it possible to reach such temperature in a pot ? Won't it burn? Plus this is quite an energy-intensive process and thus not ecologically responsible nor economically interesting).

  • Another study{6} mentions a more practical option: they reduced the quantity of mycotoxins (till 70-87%) by adding sodium bicarbonate. The study focuses on corn: they add 9 gr of sodium bicarbonate per liter. But the paper doesn't describe well the procedure: they wrote "the results obtained in this work correspond to an aqueous solution", which suggest they mixed some water, the corn (as flour?) and the sodium bicarbonate, but what quantity of water/corn, what temperature and for how long...?

And these pieces of information don't provide a practical way to reduce the mycotoxins in oats : Oats aren't cooked like rice which needs to stay 10 (or more) minutes in boiling water. To cook oat, I simply pour boiling water on it and wait 15 min. It probably doesn't reduce much the aflatoxin (how many percent?). What about adding bicarbonate with the boiling water? (how many percent reduction?)

Is there a better way, or other steps that would decrease the amount of mycotoxins in oatmeal?

1: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/15569541003598553?journalCode=itxr20
2: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2214799317300152
3: Aflatoxin is colorless and completely invisible. The loss of the nuts smell, which happens when the oats start to turn bad (just before they start to smell and then taste bad) is probably the only indication our senses can detect.
4: http://www.fao.org/3/x5036e/x5036e0q.htm
5 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF03032339
6: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jsfa.11001

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    $\begingroup$ Very difficult question. This review article discusses all of the above including oats (cereal). Can you buy whole hulled oats instead? Irish and UK oats seem to be lowest of European oats for mycotoxins. Just imho, trying to prevent cancer this way will be crazy-making. Carcinogens are absolutely everywhere. $\endgroup$ Sep 14, 2021 at 18:25
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    $\begingroup$ @JinSnow Yes; Personally, I don't think that's an appropriate reference for questions here, but ymmv. $\endgroup$
    – Armand
    Sep 15, 2021 at 0:23
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    $\begingroup$ The methods adequately describe the NaHCO3 process - whole grains - how many or what weight is not described. "Solutions of sodium bicarbonate at 0.4, 1.2, and 3.0 g L−1 were added to the PDA culture medium. The inoculated corn grain was deposited in the center of the PDA, and it was incubated at 22 °C, measuring mycelial growth in millimeters, at 48, 72, 120, and 168 h." BTW this process sounds like nixtamalization - a process often used for corn products to increase availability of essential amino acids. $\endgroup$
    – bob1
    Sep 15, 2021 at 23:53
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    $\begingroup$ Indeed it was - my apologies. The reduction section works with certified standard aflatoxin incubated (unknown time) with 9 g/l HCO3: "standard of aflatoxins (Trilogy TSL-108, USA) with a certified concentration of 2 μg mL−1 AFB1 and AFG1 and 0.5 μg mL−1 AFB2 and AFG2". So basically it is a vial with aflatoxins at the specified concs and the specified conc of HCO3 in water. There is no grain or flour/meal substrate in there. $\endgroup$
    – bob1
    Sep 16, 2021 at 21:07
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    $\begingroup$ This redearch is about rapid detection methods google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://… $\endgroup$ Sep 18, 2021 at 4:05

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So far, the applications for the control of aflatoxins in food are experimental; and they require further evaluation by researchers. However, the use of basic products has been used and tested in Mexican tortillas through the nixtamalization process, which is part of the production of this food. I share a part of a review that I am writing that could help you:

"Since aflatoxins are susceptible to alkaline hydrolysis, the addition of bicarbonate salts promotes their reduction. Nixtamalization can inhibit some percentage of aflatoxins because it is a thermal alkaline process (Torres, et al. 2001)".

Torres, P.; Guzmán-Ortiz, M.; Ramírez-Wong, B., Revising the Role of pH and Thermal Treatments in Aflatoxin Content Reduction During the Tortilla and Deep Frying Processes. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2001, 49 (6), 2825-2829. doi: 10.1021/jf0007030

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