Ochratoxin A (OTA) is a mycotoxin that may be present in various food and feed of plant and animal origin, including chicken meat. In Italy, backyard poultry farming is rather widespread. Animals are raised for meat, eggs and for ornamental purpose, and they are often fed with home-made diets not subject to official controls. The purpose of this study was to evaluate exposure of ornamental and backyard chickens to OTA using biliary ochratoxin A as a biomarker. Therefore, bile samples, in addition to kidney, liver and muscle, were collected from 102 chickens reared in 16 farms located in 6 Italian regions. High-performance liquid chromatography method and fluorimetric detection (HPLC-FLD) analysis were carried out firstly on bile from all animals, and OTA was detected in 12 chickens (concentration range 3.83–170.42 µg/L). Subsequently, the kidneys of these chickens were also analysed, and the mycotoxin was not detected. The analytical detection limits (LODs) of OTA in bile and kidney were 2.1 µg/L and 0.1 µg/kg, respectively. In conclusion, these animals were exposed to OTA but their meat can be considered safe, given that this mycotoxin, if present, concentrates highest in kidneys. Biliary ochratoxin A confirms its use as a valid biomarker to assess exposure of poultry to OTA.
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