Dietary exposure to toxic metals (Cd, Pb and Hg) from cereals marketed in Madeira and the Azores

Rubio, C., Gutiérrez, A.J., Hardisson, A., Martín, V., Revert, C., Fernandes, P.J.P., Lopes, D.H. & Paz-Montelongo, S. (2023) Dietary exposure to toxic metals (Cd, Pb and Hg) from cereals marketed in Madeira and the Azores.

Biological Trace Elements Research, 201(12), 5861-5870. DOI:10.1007/s12011-023-03643-x (IF2022 3,9; Q3 Biochemistry & Molecular Biology)
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  • Mar, 2023


Cereals and cereal-based foods continue to be basic foods in all diets. Despite being known for their high nutritional value; they can also contain contaminants (hazards) such as toxic metals. This study assesses the Cd, Pb and Hg dietary exposure from cereals and derivatives marketed in Madeira and the Azores and characterizes the risks by evaluating the Cd and Hg intake contributions to the tolerable intakes and by estimating the Margin of Exposure (MOE) in the case of Pb. In Madeira, metals follow the descending order of Cd > Pb > Hg. Cd stands out as having the highest levels (0.307 mg Cd/kg in oats; 0.237 mg/kg in rye). High levels of Pb (0.347 mg/kg) were also detected in rye. Regarding total mercury, rice stands out (0.0013 mg/kg) followed by wheat (0.001 mg/kg). While all cereals and derivatives except maize consumed in Madeira exceed the maximum value of Cd allowed by the EU, 50.0% of the rye and 25.0% of the corn flour samples exceeded the European Pb limit. The daily consumption of 100 g of oats, rye flour and rye represent high contributions to the TWI of Cd (93.2 – 120%). The MOE values of Pb from the consumption of rye (100 g/day) are 1,294 (nephrotoxic effects) and 3,082 (cardiotoxic effects). In the Azores, corn flour (0.72 mg Pb/kg) stands out with 85.7% of the samples exceeding the maximum Pb EU limit and MOE values of 626 (nephrotoxic effects) and 1,490 (cardiotoxic effects). Regular daily consumption of corn flour makes a low (< 10%) contribution to the Cd TDI. In conclusion, the Pb exposure from the consumption of cereals and derivatives could have toxic effects such as nephrotoxicity or cardiotoxicity in adults. The results highlight the need to set up monitoring and surveillance programs for the safety of cereals and their derivatives in Madeira and the Azores in terms of lead and cadmium.