Distribution of T-2 toxin and HT-2 toxin during experimental feeding of yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor)
Within the European Union (EU), edible insects need to be approved as “Novel Food” according to Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 and must comply with the requirements of European food law with regard to microbiological and chemical food safety. Substrates used for feeding insects are susceptible to the growth of Fusarium spp. and consequently to contamination with trichothecene mycotoxins. Therefore, the current study aimed to investigate the influence of T-2 and HT-2 toxins on the larval life cycle of yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor (L.)) and to study the transfer of T-2, HT-2, T-2 triol and T-2 tetraol in the larvae. In a 4-week feeding study, T. molitor larvae were kept either on naturally (oat flakes moulded with Fusarium sporotrichioides) or artificially contaminated oat flakes, each at two levels (approximately 100 and 250 μg/kg total T-2 and HT-2). Weight gain and survival rates were monitored, and mycotoxins in the feeding substrates, larvae and residues were determined using LC-MS/MS. Larval development varied between the diets and was 44% higher for larvae fed artificially contaminated diets. However, the artificially contaminated diets had a 16% lower survival rate. No trichothecenes were detected in the surviving larvae after harvest, but T-2 and HT-2 were found both in the dead larvae and in the residues of naturally and artificially contaminated diets.