Ochratoxin A (OTA) is a mycotoxin produced by several species of Aspergillus and Penicillium and is a potential contaminant of a wide variety of food products. To determine the incidence of OTA contamination in dried fruits and tree nuts, retail packaged and bulk raisins, dates, figs, prunes, almonds, pistachios, and walnuts were collected from small and large supermarkets in seven areas of the United States between 2012 and 2014. Of the 665 samples analyzed, OTA was detected in 48 raisin samples, 4 fig samples, 4 pistachio samples, and 1 date sample. OTA contamination levels ranged from 0.28 to 15.34 ng/g in dried fruits and 1.87 to 890 ng/g in pistachios; two raisin samples and one pistachio sample exceeded the European Union regulatory limit of 10 ng/g. PCR detection of potential OTA-producing Aspergillus species revealed the presence of A. niger, A. welwitschiae, and A. carbonarius in 20, 7, and 7 of the 57 OTA-contaminated samples, respectively. However, OTA-producing A. carbonarius was isolated from only one raisin sample, and no other OTA-producing Aspergillus species were found. These results suggest that raisins are more frequently contaminated with low levels of OTA than are other dried fruits and nuts and that Aspergillus species are the likely source of that contamination.

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