What are mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by fungi that grow on crops in the field (field mycotoxins) or during storage time of feed and raw materials (storage mycotoxins), as such entering the feed chain, compromising animal health. The major fungi families producing mycotoxins that cause problems in animals and humans are Aspergillus, Fusarium, Claviceps and Penicillium. In total, more than 700 mycotoxins have been identified, and some of them, like Aflatoxin (AFLA), Deoxynivalenol (DON), Zearalenone (ZEA), Fumonisin (FUM), T-2 and Ochratoxin (OTA) were identified as major cause of economic losses in the agriculture industry.


Occurrence of mycotoxins

Weather conditions during the growing season are the most influential parameters for mycotoxin production, causing a high year to year variation in the mycotoxin contamination profiles. Although exceeding the EU regulatory and guidance levels for mycotoxins is observed, low level contamination is also very common. In addition, mycotoxin co-contamination is the rule rather than the exception. Individual mycotoxins present a unique treat, but more important is to consider the synergistic effect of multiple occurring mycotoxins and their interaction with diseases.


Mycotoxins are negatively affecting animal health and production

Mycotoxins give rise to many different pathological effects in animals and humans such as toxicity in the liver and kidney, defects of central nervous system and estrogenic responses. These pathologies lead to lower animal performance and productivity. While poor animal performance is of economic importance, the effect of many mycotoxins on the immune system of the animals is of increased concern. Research shows several mycotoxins could impact vaccination efficiency. Several studies have also indicated that the presence of moderate to low amounts of mycotoxins in feed rations increases the susceptibility of animals to viral, bacterial and parasitic diseases. Not to forget the negative impact of mycotoxins on the intestinal morphology and function compromising gut health.  

Evaluating the mycotoxin risk

As mycotoxins are emerging as major contaminants of feed and raw materials, it is important to evaluate their prevalence. Proper sampling procedures of feed and raw materials need to be established to allow a correct estimation of the mycotoxin risk. Several methods are available for mycotoxin detection, all with their own advantages and restrictions. For example, ELISA can be used as a rapid in field detection method, whether LC-MS/MS is a more specific and sensitive method for the detection of mycotoxins, but requires specific lab skills. To partner with customers and to help maintain their feed quality and safety, Kemin created Customer Laboratory Services (CLS). CLS is translating customer needs into innovative tools: routine mycotoxin screening is one amongst them. Thousands of feed and raw material samples are screened resulting in a huge database showing regional and seasonal mycotoxin contaminations. All data generated are gathered in a bi-annual survey. Once the mycotoxin risk in all raw materials and feed is evaluated, a tailor-made prevention program is designed.



Mycotoxin prevention program

A threat of mycotoxins to be present in raw materials and finished feed, can have an adverse effect on the health of livestock which would indirectly impact the food chain. Thus, effective prevention and control measures for the high occurrences of mycotoxins must be implemented to reduce the risk of increasing mycotoxin deposition in the field and during storage.

Mold inhibitors can be used to mitigate this risk by preventing mold growth during the storage of feed or raw materials and in feed ingredients but are ineffective against mycotoxins. The concurrent addition of a broad-spectrum mycotoxin binder to the feed provides a comprehensive solution in reducing the toxicity risk of mycotoxins for the animal.