Mycotoxins during the processes of nixtamalization and tortilla production
Tortillas are a traditional staple food in Mesoamerican cuisine, which have also become popular on a global level, e.g., for wraps or as snacks (tortilla chips). Traditional tortilla production includes alkaline cooking (nixtamalization) of maize kernels. This article summarizes the current knowledge on mycotoxin changes during the nixtamalization of maize and tortilla production. Upon nixtamalization, mycotoxins can be affected in different ways. On the one hand, the toxins can be physically removed during steeping and washing. On the other hand, mycotoxins might be degraded, modified, or released/bound in the matrix by high pH and/or high temperature. This also applies to the subsequent baking of tortillas. Many studies have shown reduced mycotoxin levels in alkali-cooked maize and in tortillas. Most of the available data relate to aflatoxins and fumonisins. The reduction (and detoxification) of aflatoxins during nixtamalization might, however, be partially reversed in acidic conditions. The loss of fumonisin concentrations is to some extent accompanied by hydrolyzation and by lower toxicity. However, some studies have indicated the potential formation of toxicologically relevant modified forms and matrix-associated fumonisins. More data are required to assess the influence of alkaline cooking regarding such modified forms, as well as mycotoxins other than aflatoxins/fumonisins.