Mycotoxin risk this summer

20140731_132212In the UK, the more unsettled weather in August made farmers reconsider the potential mycotoxin risk for harvest time. The weather was often localised, affecting the assessment and necessitating the HGCA’s  timely warnings to farmers. Yields are reported as good, though with some effects on quality, however the status of some mycotoxin levels (e.g. DON, ZON, HT-2 and T-2) has not yet been reported. The RASFF Annual report for 2013 recorded that notifications for ochratoxin levels in dried figs and dried vine fruit were up significantly on the previous year, though overall notifications for mycotoxins in food and feed were down. The overall decrease was mostly due to a decline in aflatoxin notifications in peanuts and dried figs from India and Turkey respectively. However, notifications on aflatoxins in maize from southern Europe were highlighted due to severe drought. Aflatoxin levels were above maximum levels when tested at import or in the market, illustrating the problems of ineffective sampling. The nature of mycotoxin contamination is heterogenous and therefore business operators need to ensure that any sample tested is representative of the lot. Vicam’s new Vertu™ system (for Total aflatoxin, fumonisins, DON, Aflatoxin M1) does seek to partly address issues of sampling by offering a low cost, rapid onsite option for industry to use. The test takes just 12 minutes to screen samples to a detection limit of 2ppb and quantify levels up to 100ppb, making it suitable for use to ensure legal compliance. It is simple and safe to perform onsite, requiring minimal expertise and no toxins are used to calibrate the system. All results can be downloaded and manipulated for real-time decision making as well as for later trending. The recently introduced Afla-V AQUA even removes the need to work with hazardous solvents. These benefits are already being appreciated by existing users of the Vertu™ system for onsite mycotoxin control.