Surveillance of Ochratoxin A in cocoa beans from cocoa-growing regions of Ghana
Objectives: Cocoa is one of the agricultural commodities which is highly susceptible to mycotoxin contamination. The present study surveyed the incidence and distribution of ochratoxin A (OTA) in cocoa beans over two crop seasons. Materials and Methods: The cocoa beans samples were collected randomly from farmers across cocoa-growing regions of Ghana. OTA concentrations in the samples were determined by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) methods following purification on immunoaffinity solid phase column. Results: The result showed that 21.7% of all samples analyzed were contaminated with OTA at concentrations ranging from 0.01 g/kg to 12.36 g/kg. However, 0.9% and 3.5% of the OTA-positive samples exceeded the OTA maximum limits of 10 g/kg for cocoa beans and 3 g/kg for cocoa powder, set by the Brazilian National Health Surveillance Agency and the European Commission, respectively. During the main and light crop seasons, the highest concentrations of OTA were detected in the Western North region, reaching up to 12.36 g/kg and 3.45 g/kg, respectively. OTA concentrations between the cocoa-growing regions in the main crop season were not significantly different (p > 0.05), however, the light crop season indicated a significant difference (p < 0.05). There was a significant difference (p < 0.05) between the two crop seasons. Conclusions: The need for regular monitoring and careful adherence to agronomic strategies such as good agricultural practices (GAPs), recommended code of practices (COPs) and good manufacturing practices (GMPs) for the prevention and reduction of OTA throughout the cocoa value chain cannot be over emphasized.