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Emerging Mycotoxins: Undetected Risks in the Mycotoxin Minefield

When producers think of mycotoxins, they often think of the big six: aflatoxin, deoxynivalenol (DON), T-2 toxin, fumonisin, ochratoxin and zearalenone. The primary effects of these toxins on performance and health of production animals are known, and regulatory guidance on threshold levels for these toxins in grains and feed exist. The problem is focusing in on these toxins alone equates to tunnel vision in the broader fight against the 300+ mycotoxins known to contaminate animal feed. 

Testing and reporting on the prevalence of mycotoxins in feed has increased in recent years, but many mycotoxins continue to go undetected. One such category of growing concern are emerging mycotoxins. Similar to DON, T-2 and zearalenone, emerging mycotoxins are also commonly produced by various Fusarium molds. Further, because molds produce multiple mycotoxins under the same environmental stressors, emerging mycotoxins are likely to be frequent co-contaminants in feed with major mycotoxins.1,2 With very little data existing regarding the health risk of these undetected mycotoxins, emerging mycotoxins remain a blind spot in the perennial battle against mycotoxins.

So, what do researchers know about emerging mycotoxins?

Emerging mycotoxins are lesser-known or newer forms of mycotoxins that, by definition, are neither routinely determined, nor legislatively regulated.1 However, research indicates these emerging toxins are rapidly becoming prevalent co-contaminants in feed grains – corn, wheat, barley, etc. – which contain other Fusarium mycotoxins.1,2,3 For example, a recent study found that corn collected from across the U.S. averaged 7.5 mycotoxins with 90.3% and 97.1% of samples contained DON and emerging mycotoxins, respectively.4 A brief summary of the four main emerging mycotoxins is outlined below.

Enniatins (ENNs)

Enniatins are produced my multiple molds including F. avenaceum, F. oxysporum and F. tricinctum.1 To date, 29 different ENNs have been found in cereal grains, of which ENN A, A1, B and B1 are most frequently detected. The toxicity of ENNs is based on their ionophoric properties which allow them to transport cations across membranes, thereby disrupting physiological ion levels.1 Although ENNs are toxic in vitro, research suggests they are rapidly metabolized in vivo, thereby limiting their toxicity.3

Beauvericin (BEA)

Similar to ENNs, the toxicity of BEA stems from its ionophoric nature. BEA is produced by Fusarium proliferatum and F. verticillioides and has been found to co-occur with ENNs (wheat), fumonisin B1 (corn) and DON, zearalenone and T-2 toxin in barley.3  Although BEA has been observed to accumulate in egg yolks, broilers fed diets containing 2.5 ppm BEA did not show declines in performance.1

Moniliformin (MON)

Moniliformin is a highly polar mycotoxin which inhibits enzymes in the tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA), thereby altering cellular metabolism. The heart muscle is the primary target of MON in vivo, with poultry exposed to MON showing heart damage, impaired immune function and decreased performance.1 Moniliformin is produced by many Fusarium molds as well as by Penicillium melanoconidium. Overall, compared to other emerging mycotoxins, MON is expected to have higher acute toxicity.3

Fusaproliferin (FUS)

Fusaproliferin was discovered in the 1990s, but its toxicity and mode of action are yet to be fully elucidated. Concentrations of up to 500 ppm FUS have been observed in grains, and similar to other emerging toxins, FUS has been found to co-occur with both major and emerging Fusarium mycotoxins.3


With limited data on the toxicity and prevalence of emerging mycotoxins, it is difficult for researchers to conduct a proper risk assessment of the role these undetected toxins may play on animal health and performance. What is clear, however, is the evidence that emerging toxins are likely to co-occur with major mycotoxins that contaminate grains used in livestock and poultry diets.

Currently, the health risk from multi-toxin exposure – for detected and undetected mycotoxins alike – remains poorly understood. For producers, that means implementing a comprehensive mycotoxin testing program for incoming grains at the feed mill is key to identifying mycotoxin risks in ingredients before manufacturing feeds. Furthermore, inclusion of mold inhibitors, to control mold growth, as well as use of flow agents – like zeolites – to neutralize toxins in diets can help producers minimize the impacts of mycotoxins on animal health and performance.5,6

For more information about solutions to address the risk of mycotoxins in your operation please visit



1Gruber-Dorninger, C. et al. (2017). Emerging mycotoxins: beyond traditionally determined food contaminants. J Agri Food chem, 65: 7052-7070.
2Ekwomadu, T.I. et al. (2020). Variation of Fusarium free, masked, and emerging mycotoxin metabolites in maize form agriculture regions of south Africa, Toxins, 12(149); doi:10.3390/toxins12030149.
3Jestoi, Marika (2008). Emerging Fusarium-mycotoxins fusaproliferin, beauvericin, enniatins, and moniliformin – a review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 48:1, 21-49.
4Shike, Jennifer. Continue Testing for Mycotoxins. Farm’s Journal Pork, Jan. 29, 2020., accessed Sept. 28, 2020.
5Ramos, A.J., J. Fink-Gremmels, and E. Hernández. (1996). Prevention of toxic effects of mycotoxins by means of nonnutritive adsorbent compounds. J. Food Protection, 59(6):631-641.
6Vila-Donat, P., S. Marín, V. Sanchis, and A. J. Ramos. (2018). A review of the mycotoxin adsorbing agents, with an emphasis on their multi-binding capacity, for animal feed decontamination. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 114:246-259.

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