Ochratoxin A (OTA) in Oats

Is it true that oat cereals, like Cheerios, oatmeal, oatflakes and steel-cut oats can be contaminated with a toxin?
Reviewed and edited by Tod Cooperman, M.D. Tod Cooperman, M.D.
Oat Cereals and Fungal Toxin OTA -- bowl of oat cereal
Yes, unfortunately. In fact, a study of oat-based cereals in the U.S. found the majority to be contaminated with a fungal toxin — several at unacceptably high levels. Read the full answer >>

UPDATE: Due to the concern about ochratoxin A in oat-based cereals, purchased and tested popular oat-based cereals (and one buckwheat cereal) for contamination with this toxin (as well as for contamination with gluten and heavy metals) in 2016. For the results, see the Oats Cereal Review >>

Learn More About Oat Cereals:

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Should I be concerned about phytic acid in oat cereals? I've heard that it can be harmful, but also that it can have health benefits. >>

See other recent and popular questions >>

LYNN17691   March 30, 2019
What about oat and wheat bran from the open, plastic bins in supermarkets like Nob Hill? I've been making a cereal with 1 tablespoon of each, plus 2 tbls. oats for years. It helped eliminate constipation. Now I have to worry that I've been eating toxins?   March 30, 2019
Hi Lynn - Since our readership is nationwide, we focus our testing on packaged products that are widely available, rather than products sold loose in stores. There is likely greater variability in the quality of products sold loose, as they are likely more subject to the the effects of humidity, as well as oxidation and local contamination.

Manoj17068   August 14, 2018
What can we do to remove the fungal toxin ochratoxin A, when using least processed products like steel-cut oats and rolled oats?   August 14, 2018
Unfortunately, you really can't get rid of it. However, you can certainly avoid it by choosing a product that is not contaminated.

Mark16967   July 21, 2018
I was wondering why you chose one buckwheat product in your analysis of oat products. Is buckwheat known to be susceptible to this toxin? Thank you.   July 22, 2018
Ochratoxin A has been reported in buckwheat and it can potentially contain heavy metals, so we tested for these in a buckwheat product. It was also tested for potential cross-contamination with gluten. As buckwheat is not as popular as oat-based cereals, we only tested one buckwheat product in the Review.

Linda Feller16729   April 16, 2018
Thank you for doing these studies. Would you add Kind Health Grains cereals to your list for future testing? Thank you.

anthony16725   April 16, 2018
Isn't heavy glycophosphate contamination of oat cereal products also a problem, or should we not be concerned about that?   April 19, 2018
Hi Anthony - Please see our CL Answer about glyphosate, which includes information about amounts found in oat products:

Hal16723   April 15, 2018
Would microwaving help?

William16704   April 10, 2018
Please add Honeyville Steel Cut Oats to your testing. As another has said, I soak them in water overnight to aid in cooking. Been eating approx 1/2 C each morning ( I take a Probiotic with them too ) for the last 5 years.

I bulk store my oats in air tight containers with oxygen absorber packets.

Jacquie16698   April 8, 2018
Thank you for this study and the testing you have done so far. I ate Quaker Oats for decades and then switched to Nature's Path Original instant oatmeal - because it was organic. It would be great if you would test Nature's Path Original and let those of us who like to support organic farming know if we need to return to Quaker's to avoid ochratoxin. Thanks again!   April 9, 2018
Hi Jacquie - Thank you for your kind words, and your suggestion. We will keep it in mind for future testing. You may also be interested in our tests of other organic oat cereals:

Steven16689   April 8, 2018
I notice you didn't test many cold cereal products for this contaminant.
Can you please test Joe's O's, Cascadian Farms Organic Oat cereals and others as well?
Thanks   April 10, 2018
Hi Steven - Although we did not test Joe's O's from Trader Joe's (we tested their Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats as well as their Rolled Oats) we did include two cold cereals: Cheerios and Arrowhead Mills Organic Oat Bran Flakes (

Caryn15559   September 23, 2017
Has any testing been done on oat-based beverages. I consume about 2 cups per day in my decaf and mixed with protein powder and am concerned about the risk.

If no testing has yet been done, does ConsumerLab have any thoughts about the potential Ochratoxin A content in oat-based drinks?

Thank you.   September 25, 2017
Hi Caryn - Our testing of oats focused on oat-based cereals and did not include drinks.

Connie11601   January 15, 2017
Is oatmeal safe for infants? Is the oatmeal marketed for infants safer than making your own by pulsing it in a blender?   January 16, 2017
We were particularly concerned about infants and small children with regard to ochratoxin, so we held products for small children up to an even even stricter limit. Fortunately, all of those products passed these tests. However, one sample of another oat cereal was above that limit and, as we note in the report, "it may be advisable to limit use of this product by young children." Also be aware that many of the oat cereals marketed to children were found to contain high concentrations of gluten (from cross-contamination from wheat). If gluten is of concern, it would seem best to prepare infant's oatmeal from one of the prodcuts which was low in gluten as well as ochtratoxin A.

Connie11606   January 16, 2017
Thank you!

Connie11075   July 11, 2016
I eat old fashion oats, uncooked in my plain yogurt with fresh fruit and I felt this was a fairly healthy snack or meal. I usually consume about 1 and 1/2 cups of these oats on a daily basis. I am anxious to read the results of your study. And I thought I was making good, healthy choices for food!

John13897   April 6, 2017
I read in a published article that Lactobacilli species can reduce the harmful toxin in oats by adsorption to the cell wall and thereby the toxin is removed by 65%. So consuming oats with yogurt could be beneficial to a certain extent.
I am a Medical Bacteriologist
C Pires

Jacquie16695   April 8, 2018
This is really interesting, because even before learning about ochratoxin I started adding yogurt to my breakfast bowl of oatmeal & fruit. Just seemed like a tasty thing to do. Thanks for validating this particular food intuition.

Janet11039   July 6, 2016
I cook enough steel cut oats for a week and store them in the frig. am I encouraging the fungus to grow more by doing this?   July 6, 2016
No, you are not encouraging fungus to grow. However, this has little effect on ochratoxin which may be in the oats you cooked.

Maryanne11020   June 27, 2016
In addition to Bob's Steel Cut Oats (both regular and gluten-free), please also test Bob's Scottish Oatmeal. We buy organic rolled oats from bins in natural foods stores, would you be able to test that type of rolled oats?   June 27, 2016
Thank you for your suggestions. Please note, however, that we will not be testing oats sold loose from bins, as the results would not be very generalizable. We focus on products which are packaged and, typically, available nationwide so that the test results are of potential value to a larger percentage of our members.

Ann16687   April 8, 2018
Bob's Scottish oatmeal is a favorite in my house,'but now I wonder about the advice on the package: “Keeps best frozen or refrigerated.” Seems that any condensation occurring when the storage container is returned to the fridge each time ought to favor the production of toxin. Freezer better? Or am I overthinking this ? Thanks for re-opening the discussion.

xkater11018   June 26, 2016
May i ask folks who are reading this thread to please read Consumerlab's description of the issue at the top before asking questions - the issue seems thoroughly reported - please let Consumerlab folks get on with writing more good articles.
Thanks Consumerlab!

Ann11008   June 25, 2016
Since heat and moisture are said to favor the growth of fungus on the grain, I'm concluding that soaking steel-cut oats (overnight as I have been doing, to shorten cooking time) is not a very good idea. Who knows what conditions the grain is subject to prior to sale, but I store the oats in the refrigerator and wonder if cooking them in a slow cooker overnight would keep the fungus, and consequently the amount of toxin, lower. You note that high temps don't eliminate the toxins but in this case the object would be to limit the toxin-producing process.
Would you please address the toxin problem as it affects buckwheat groats and other grains used as breakfast food? Some 7- or 10- grain mixtures are out there and might be a good substitute.   June 26, 2016
Hi Ann - As noted in the Answer above, breakfast cereals in the U.S. made with other grains have been tested. Some have been contaminated, although none to the extent of oat-based cereals. Buckwheat was not included, so may include a sample or two in its upcoming tests. Soaking steel-cut oats overnight, as you have been doing, is probably not a concern if the grains are submerged, as the fungus needs air to grow and produce the toxin.

Jacquie11424   November 27, 2016
Please, in your upcoming additional oat product tests, test Nature's Path organic Original hot oatmeal. I recently switched from Quakers to this product, bought a lot of it, and would love to know if I need to switch back. Also Nairns fine oatcake crackers.

Thank you for all the good work you do. I'm a chocoholic who is now cutting down and choosing more wisely thanks to your research on cadmium and lead in cocoa products. Now I'm looking for more info on ochratoxin.

Wishes to you for a happy and prosperous 2017,
Jacquie in San Diego

Victoria10994   June 24, 2016
To further the debate on whether the toxin is 'on" or "in" oats and other grains, how does the processing of removing the external layers play a role? As we see in many food scenarios cross contamination is hard to control, so even though the toxin might be concentrated to the external covering, when the external covering is removed how much toxin can find it's way into the supply of the internal part of the grain that was extracted? If it can lets hope the amount is very minimal. Thanks again CL for testing! In the end, consumers need to know what is in what products to make informed choices. How it got there is additional information for the consumer but more of a necessity for the manufacturer, so they can make a better, healthier product..

Franklin10988   June 24, 2016
In your answer to Cathy9805, you stated that "...ochratoxin A is produced by a fungi which can grow on grain...". Did you literally mean "on" rather than "in"? That is, if the toxin grows on the outside (the bran) of the oat kernel but not in the inside of the kernel (the endosperm), then one would expect that oat bran, which contains the bran and the germ of the kernel but not the endosperm, would be higher in ochratoxin A than would be oatmeal, which contains the endosperm, in addition to the bran and the germ. On the other hand, if the toxin grows primarily in the inside (endosperm) of the kernel, then the converse would be true. Depending on the outcome of your tests, many people might be switching from oat bran to oatmeal or from oatmeal to oat bran. --- Frank   June 24, 2016
Yes, as explained in the answer, it may potentially occur in higher concentrations in oat bran because fungal toxins tend to occur on the external layers of grains. We'll see what we find.

Victoria10983   June 23, 2016
It's nice to know this information but why does a researcher group (any other entity) spend the time and money on testing products we use and then not readily disclose the negative and/or positive information they found in the study, especially when it can possibly be harmful to people. So now a few privy people have information that could be helpful to us all. Thank goodness for Consumer Lab and their testing, at the same time Consumer Lab could be using their resources on other items of importance if more places shared their findings. Also thank goodness the European Union has "tolerable daily intake levels" for substances like this, so we can have some guidance for a healthy lifestyle.

Diane10980   June 23, 2016
Please test both organic and non-organic oats and cereal for babies.   June 24, 2016
Thank you, We will include one or more oat-based infant cereals.

Letcher10979   June 22, 2016
This is very interesting. I also think that (for me) these cereals are addicting. Whenever I eat Cheerios, (honey nut and plain mixed together) I always eat at least 2 16 oz bowls. Interestingly, I have this problem whenever I eat Planters peanuts, (aflatoxin?) I have a difficult time eating a small portion.

Luisa15857   October 18, 2017
I have the same concerns, thanks for your comments... As a vegetarian, I consume large amounts of roasted peanuts as portion control is hard.

Jack10978   June 22, 2016
Aldi's sells their own brand of steel cut regular and quick cook oats and it would be nice if you could include them in our testing.

Susan 10974   June 22, 2016
We buy groats in bulk so hope that several sources of groats be tested as well. Groats seem to be the highest potential of all for contamination.

K16676   April 4, 2018
Echo that, have been eating Bob's Red Mill organic whole groats and would like to know level(s) of ochratoxin therein.   April 7, 2018
Oat groats are whole grain oats. Steel-cut oats are very similar except that the groat (or grain) has been cut. We tested 4 brands of steel-cut oats -- one of which is Bob's Red Mill -- so you might want to see how much ochratoxin A, as well as gluten, we found. By the way, we also tested cut, roasted buckwheat groats -- Wolff's Kasha.

Integral Yoga10969   June 22, 2016
Would you please test Nature's Path Multigrain Oat Bran cereal? It has oat bran plus oat flour in it along with other grains. Thanks.

Carol10965   June 22, 2016
Please test Quaker Oats old fashioned oatmeal. I eat it almost every day for breakfast.

Paul10964   June 22, 2016
I notice that most Kashi cereals and Barbara's cereals also contain oat ingredients. I regularly eat these cereals along with Bob's Red Mill steel cut oats, oat bran, and multi-grain cereals that all contain oat ingredients. I hope these all make the list of tested products by Consumer Labs. I look for high fiber cereals, especially those with greater amounts of soluble fiber. Oats are an important ingredient in getting soluble fiber, which is associated with removing cholesterol and oxidants from the body.   June 22, 2016
We certainly agree that whole grains, including oats, are excellents sources of soluble fiber and can be healthful. The research cited in the Answer above suggests that only a few percent of oat-based cereals in the U.S. are contaminated to the point to which they exceed strict limits which have been established. Until we identify which products are of real concern, it would seem reasonable to continue to eat oat-based cereals but to consider using moderation and a variety of whole grain products.

Paul10962   June 22, 2016
I would like it if you would add Barbara's Oat Crunch to your list of cereals to test.

Nancy10961   June 22, 2016
Thank you for your information. Would it help to rinse steel cut oats a few times before cooking? Would that help to lessen the ochratoxin A?

Tod10990   June 24, 2016
While rinsing can't hurt, it's not clear how much that will help. Unlike pesticides which are often sprayed on, this toxin is likely more engrained and it is fat-soluble, not water soluble. Washing has not been noted in the literature as mechanism for removal.

Laurence10960   June 22, 2016
From a review of other internet sources on the subject, it appears that dried fruits, particularly raisins, often have very higher levels of this contamination, much higher than grains. It would be helpful if you could do a more general survey of foods likely to have high levels of contamination -- people need to know not just whether their oatmeal is an issue, but how alternatives such as buckwheat and millet fare. They also need to know if their exposure is made much greater by adding raisins and other dried fruits to their cereal, as so many of us have been doing.   June 22, 2016
You are correct and we will keep these other products in mind. However, grains are believed to be the main contributor of ochratoxin A exposure in the U.S. and this is our current focus.

Kathleen10958   June 22, 2016
Would you please test Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats "The Golden Spurtle". Thanks!

Karen10954   June 22, 2016
Coache's Oats is a popular brand of oat meal sold at Costco. Would be nice to see Coache's Oats included in the testing.

Elizabeth10953   June 22, 2016
Are oatmeal cookies safe? (And is nothing sacred?) Might you test cookies, oat bread, muffins, etc.? It sounds as if it's not just oats, either. Are you considering testing other grain products? And thank you so much for bringing this to our attention!   June 24, 2016
While it is certainly possible that oats in those products may be contaminated, this is a much more limited contributor to overall exposure than cereals, so our focus is on the cereals for now.

Charles10951   June 22, 2016
Could you kindly test Trader Joe's Rolled Oats which my wife and I eat several days a week as healthy and exceptionally tasty.

Marina10987   June 23, 2016
I just emailed them with that same request. :) My significant other has been eating five days a week for years!

Susan10947   June 22, 2016
What sorts of health effects are we looking at from this ochratoxin A ? What would I watch for?   June 24, 2016
Please see the Answer (first paragraph).

Lynn10945   June 22, 2016
Could you test Oatbran? I buy Bob's Red Mill. would Oatbran be the same as other oat products?   June 22, 2016
Yes, oat bran is of concern, as explained in the Answer above, and samples will be tested by

Thomas10943   June 22, 2016
What happens to the toxins when the oats are boiled or baked?   June 22, 2016
As noted in the Answer above, the toxin is very stable and difficult to destroy under normal food processing or cooking conditions.

Velga10941   June 22, 2016
It would seem that this is a naturally occurring "toxin" in the growth of oats. Aren't there many such "contaminants" in most everything we grow in soil? After all, neither the soil nor moisture that nourishes our plants is sterile. Have there been actual direct links between this one and actual disease -- not just possible, but confirmed? We have been urged to use oats to lower cholesterol and they have been touted good for our hearts, etc. Now here is a whole new food group going down the tubes, it seems. Is it just that we know more now than a hundred years ago (when people ate even less processed forms of oats) or is it a new development?   June 24, 2016
Ochratoxin A is well known to cause toxicity in animals due to contaminated animal feed. It is believed to have simlar effects in people, although there is less direct evidence -- likely because our diets are more varied. The evidence with oat-based breakfast cereals does not mean that this entire category is "going down the tubes" but it may be prudent to select products which are less contaminated -- or not contaminated at all -- particularly if you tend to regularly consume significant amounts. We hope that our test results will help with this.

Velga11013   June 26, 2016
Thank you.

Marina10934   June 22, 2016
Are all grains affected by mold toxins, just to different degrees? Rice, sorghum, etc? Ty.   June 22, 2016
As noted in the Answer above, the toxin of concern, ochratoxin A, has been found on many types of grain, including rice. Among breakfast cereals in the U.S., it occurs most commonly and at highest concentration in oat-based products, which is why this is the focus of our testing.

Kathy10931   June 22, 2016
I wonder if global warming might have something to do with this.KN

Rich10984   June 23, 2016
What about sprouted grains? The body supposedly handles them as veggies.

Cindy10923   June 22, 2016
My husband eats Spoon Size Shreaded Wheat every morning. Was wondering if you were planning on testing wheat products too?

My 101 year old Grandfather (1899-2000) was very healthy and strong. He ate Quaker Oats old fashioned oatmeal every morning his entire life, so I am going to assume that Quaker Oats Oatmeal will probably be OK. I eat it about once or twice a week so not worried. It is the grains we eat daily that should concern us like the Shreaded wheat. Let me know if your testing will only be centered in Oats or include Wheat or other grains as well.   June 24, 2016
The current testing will focus on oat-based cereals, as they appear to be more problematic, as noted in the Answer above.

Barbara10886   June 22, 2016
I eat steel cut oatmeal practically everyday and have for several years. This is of concern because I also have serious mold allergies for which I'm being treated. Thank you for your alerting your membership to this.


Steven10876   June 21, 2016
We eat Bob's Red Mill Organic Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats, Trader Joe's Multigrain O's Cereal, General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios, and Trader Joe's Fruity O's, as well as rolled oat flakes and steel cut oats from New Leaf's bulk bins. Besides testing the products above, I'd appreciate knowing what brands, especially of steel cut oats, have the LEAST toxin.

One question, please: Even if a particular brand tests low in ochratoxin A, couldn't that easily change next month or next season, given the apparent prevalence of the fungus in oats and the facts that manufacturers may easily change their oat suppliers and conditions promoting fungal growth change over time? In other words, how much can we count on a good test result for a particular product remaining good?   July 8, 2016
Hi Steven - While it is certainly true that results may vary from lot-to-lot, if good quality controls are in place and they include limits for fungal toxins, there should be less variation. At, having tested thousands of dietary supplements and other nutritional products since 1999, we have seen that products which fail our tests are much more likely to fail again when purchased and tested again a year or two later. Similarly, those which passed testing are much more likely to pass again.

richard9873   June 21, 2016
great job ,protecting our health..streetthunder

Linda9861   June 20, 2016
Please test Trader Joe's Toasted Oatmeal Flakes and Quaker Oatmeal Squares.

Laura9858   June 20, 2016
I am so happy to hear you are conducting tests and look forward to reviewing the results. I eat oatmeal almost daily (Bob's Red Mill) for cholesterol and heart health. My daughter does as well but less often. Thank you!

Beverly9847   June 20, 2016
Quaker oats?

Fabian9846   June 20, 2016
Please expedite the tests for ochratoxin in Cheerios, oatmeaL ETC - I eat a lot o these and am very concerned

Anne9843   June 20, 2016
I adore the muesli I make with gluten free rolled oats. I guess the answer is to just not have cereal every day. Variety is the spice of life anyway, no?

Ralph9835   June 19, 2016
It will be important to have results by brand. Please include Trader Joe's and Whole Foods brands.   June 24, 2016's results will certainly be reported by brand, identifying the specific products as in all of our reports. You will be notified when the results are available if you receive our emailed newsletter, which is included with membership. This will link to the report, when published. (The newsletter itself can also be obtained for free --

Robert9834   June 19, 2016
Is there a concern also with these toxins in cacao or chocolate?   November 28, 2016
Hi Robert - We've now answered your question here:

mary9828   June 19, 2016
Test Bobs Red Mill Steel Cut Oats

Carole9823   June 19, 2016
I have stopped eating ALL grains but use to eat Oatmeal everyday for years. I feel a lot better avoiding grains, but my Dr. suggested I get more fiber and carbs than I'm use to eating....I ate a bowl of oatmeal thinking this would be a good thing and shortly thereafter I felt terrible. Not saying the carcinogenic was the culprit...but believe I am probably allergic to reay this....I'll find other ways to get nutrition...

Ruth9822   June 19, 2016
I am worried. Am a fan of Quaker Oatmeal. Did you test that one? Thanks, Ruth   June 24, 2016
It may have been tested in the study mentioned in the Answer, but brands were not identified. However, we will likely be testing this brand and results will be published.

Donna9866   June 20, 2016
Donna I eat a lot of oatmeal and oat cereals. I am 84 years old and had a very small item on my face recently removed that was cancerous. This was due I presume by the sun. Does cooking the oats kill the culprit of causing cancer?   September 22, 2016
Hi Donna - Please see the "What to Consider When Using" section of the Oat Cereals Review for information about this:

harvey9820   June 19, 2016
please test steel-cut oats, the only kind i eat, both branded and bulk. thank you

Judith9818   June 19, 2016
Would you please test some gluten free oats, such as Trader Joes and Bobs.

Jo9814   June 19, 2016
My husband had steel-cut oats for breakfast almost daily. I bought it in bulk from a reputable market that specialized in organic foods. We stopped using the cereal about 7 months ago. When cooking, a green foam emerged. This had never happened before. The store could not explain this though one worker said she had the same experience. My husband no longer eats steel-cut oats. Is this a result from the fungus?

We have no financial interest in the product.

J Loi   June 20, 2016
Hi Jo - The green foam has been reported by others and may be due to either iron in the water (such as in freshly pumped well water) or a particularly high pH of the water. It is not believed to be related to ochratoxin A or to represent a problem with the oats (Doehlert, J Food Sci 2009 --

John 9812   June 19, 2016
I would be grateful if you could include some brands of whole-grain oatmeals from Ireland like McCann's or Flahavan's.

Fadi10989   June 24, 2016

Stephen9808   June 19, 2016
If Cheerios , Trader Joe's O's and steel-cut oats can't be trusted, what is sacred? In any event, as soon as you test these products, please get the word out.

Susie9807   June 19, 2016
Is organic oatmeal contaminated also?   June 20, 2016
Hi Susie - As noted in the answer above, the cited study found no statistically significant difference in contamination between organic and non-organic products.

Tina9806   June 19, 2016
What about organic oatmeal, such as the type that's sold at Trader Joe's? Do you have that information?

Tina   June 20, 2016
Hi Lisa - As noted in the answer above, the cited study also tested organic oat products, although it did not provide brand names.

Cathy9805   June 19, 2016
How does the toxin get in the cereal? Is it in the ground?   June 20, 2016
Hi Cathy - As noted in the answer above, ochratoxin A is produced by a fungi which can grow on grains when exposed to moisture and heat.

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This CL Answer initially posted on 6/18/2016. Last updated 8/1/2017. members may submit questions to We read all questions and try to answer those of popular interest.



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