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A routine analysis of mycotoxins

Analysing incoming feed materials for mycotoxin contamination is crucially important as feed can be affected by climate, agricultural practices and local legislation on mycotoxins. In a survey of the 2017 corn harvest in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, high levels of Aflatoxin B1, Fumonisin B1, Fumonisin B2 were discovered.

The global use of feed materials in the production of animal feed is increasing the risk of chemical and microbiological contaminants in food-producing animals. The feed can be contaminated with micro-organisms, mycotoxins, animal by-products, organic pollutants and toxic metals. This contamination of animal feeds has a negative effect on both animal and human health. Among these, mycotoxins are emerging as a major contaminant of feed and food.

Mycotoxins are produced as secondary metabolites by various fungi. The major fungus producing mycotoxins are aspergillus, fusarium and penicillium. Aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, fumonisins, deoxynivalenol, T-2 toxin and zearalenone are the most common mycotoxins found in food and feed samples. Many food and feed samples can become contaminated with mycotoxins before harvest, during transport and during their storage. Commodities and products frequently contaminated with mycotoxins and used in animal feed include corn, wheat, barley, rice, oats, nuts, milk, cheese, peanuts and cottonseed, etc.

Mycotoxins produce a wide range of adverse and toxic effects in animals affecting their overall health and productivity. Mycotoxins cause mycotoxicosis and cause significant economic losses in animals due to reduced productivity, increased disease incidence and decreased reproductive performance. The mycotoxins of most concern due to their toxicity and occurrence are aflatoxin (AFB1), deoxynivalenol (DON), ochratoxin (Ochra A), zearalenone (ZEA), fumonisin (FB1 and FB2) and T-2 toxins. Regulations for major mycotoxins in the food and feed commodities exist in at least 100 countries. Most of these regulations are related to aflatoxins and the maximum tolerated levels differs greatly among countries. These variations in tolerated levels of mycotoxins and non-regulation of other mycotoxins in other countries are posing a big challenge for the animal feed industry and these variations are increasing the importance of mycotoxin analysis of incoming raw materials before they enter the food/feed chain.

Analysis of mycotoxins

To determine whether feed material and other commodities are contaminated with mycotoxins, it must be tested for mycotoxins. Proper sampling procedures are a pre-requisite for obtaining reliable results because of the heterogeneous distribution of mycotoxins in grains and other commodities. There are many methods available for detection of mycotoxins. Conventional methods for mycotoxins include ELISA, thin-layer chromatography (TLC), high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and gas chromatography (GC). Most of these methods employ a solid phase column clean-up of extracts and immunoaffinity techniques to remove interferences to improve the measurement of mycotoxins. ELISA is a method of choice where rapid analysis is required, but requires confirmatory analysis by LC-MS/MS. LC-MS/MS is the most sensitive and preferred method of analysis for mycotoxins in food and feed samples.

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