Mycotoxins are toxic secondary metabolites produced by fungi and moulds on agricultural commodities in the field or during storage.
Mycotoxins can grow in a variety of foodstuffs such as cereals, spices and coffee, often under warm and humid conditions. These conditions can be attained through poor storage of these foodstuffs.
It is estimated at 25% of the world's food crops are affected, resulting in large commercial losses. Mycotoxins can cause serious health problems (including some being suspected carcinogens) and so are tightly regulated across the world. Mycotoxin contamination is the largest cause of rapid alerts raised against imported food products.
This proficiency test is targeted at Ochratoxin A (OTA) analysis, which has an EU MRL for many commodities. This is due to OTA has been labelled as a carcinogen and a nephrotoxin.
Animal feed has wide ranging effects on consumption of contaminants. This is because it can transform through animals into foods for human consumption such as meat, eggs and milk. As such laboratories and testing bodies must be sure of their accurate testing capabilities, backed by strong proficiency testing data across a range of matrices and analytes to give an overall picture from which to base any later results.
The lower yield from the increase in disease among livestock as mycotoxins take effect can be catastrophic for farmers’ ongoing financial and reputational success as low quality yield or low quantity can hurt buyer relationships in both the short and long term.