Abstract: Ochratoxin A (OTA) produced in food by Aspergillus ochraceus is known to cause adverse health effects. Among the plantation products, green coffee beans are prone to fungal attack and get contaminated with OTA frequently. A fungal strain isolated from green coffee beans was characterized by morphological analyses as well as internal transcribed spacer (ITS) and 5.8S rDNA sequencing, turned out to be A. ochraceus, however, nontoxigenic. Hence, additional strains of A. ochraceus were procured and characterized for toxin production. Presterilized green coffee beans were spiked with a toxigenic strain and treated with gamma radiation. Minimum inhibitory dose (MID) of gamma radiation for 104 and 108 spores of A. ochraceus strain per 10 g of green coffee beans was found to be approximately 1 and approximately 2.5 kGy, respectively. The radiation treatment (10 kGy) almost degraded the preformed or in vitro added OTA (50 ppb) in coffee beans. OTA degradation was found to be enhanced with increase in moisture content. Cytotoxicity in terms of cell viability was found to be reduced significantly for radiation treated OTA in MTT [3-(4,5-dimethylthiazole-2yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide] assay as well as flow cytometric analysis when studied using human intestinal epithelial (Int-407) cells. Similar finding was also observed with E. coli MG1655 cells. Thus the inclusion of gamma radiation treatment in the postharvest processing chain of green coffee beans could help in eliminating toxigenic fungi as well as destroying preformed OTA without affecting the sensory attributes.
Practical Application: In general, mycotoxins including ochratoxin A (OTA) are highly stable to detoxifying agents. Green coffee beans are prone to fungal attack and could get frequently contaminated with the OTA due to improper drying or rehydration during storage. Gamma radiation processing of green coffee beans was found to eliminate the A. ochraceus spores as well as inactivate OTA without affecting its sensory attributes. Thus inclusion of gamma radiation in the postharvest processing chain of green coffee beans would be very useful for consumer safety and coffee trade.