Mycotoxins are a toxic secondary metabolite produced by fungi growing on a range of crops, including grains and nuts. They remain chemically stable at high temperatures, meaning they can travel through the food supply chain unaffected, making them a severe threat to human health.1
Food manufacturers around the globe need to be aware of the threat posed by mycotoxins. In Indonesia, the tropical growing conditions for corn, together with humid storage environments, mean mycotoxins are becoming a serious problem for the health of Indonesia’s domestic poultry industry.2 In Nigeria, the federal government has issued a warning over food safety, saying 5,160 Nigerian’s are killed each year by food diseases, including mycotoxin poisoning from Aflatoxin in nuts, cereals, dried cassava and yam.3
In early 2013, Romania, Serbia and Croatia, were among several EU countries to report milk contaminated with aflatoxins, milk that was destined for human consumption, or use in food products. In late 2012 Europe’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) reported 10 notifications of aflatoxin B1 in maize of European origin, more than the total reports in the previous 10 years. Warmer temperatures across the continent mean mycotoxins are becoming more of an issue.
The risks cannot be underestimated. A small amount of infected grain added to a Panamax vessel of uncontaminated corn can render the entire shipment inedible as there is no practical way to retrospectively segregate sound cargo from contaminated lots. Food manufacturers cannot afford to ignore the potential for mycotoxin contaminated crops ending up in their products as mycotoxins are potentially fatal. Companies must employ effective early warning systems to protect their customers and their reputations.
SGS Solutions: Mycotoxin Monitoring Program
Traditional laboratory analysis and strict threshold-based regulations have proven themselves to be costly and error-prone, which is why SGS developed its Mycotoxin Monitoring Program. Started in 2014, the program now covers ten south-east European countries – Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
This early warning and monitoring program focuses on corn and wheat crops and works in line with the requirements of several certification schemes, such as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP+), the Feed Chain Alliance Standard (OVOCOM), Good Trading Practice (Coceral GTP), Agricultural Industries Confederation AIC, European Feed and Food Ingredient Safety Certification (EFISC), and Quality Scheme (QS). It provides an effective early warning notification system against Aflatoxin (B1 and total), Ochratoxin, Deoxynivalenol, Zearalenone, Fumonisins, and HT-2/T-2.
Sampling is administered under Grain and Feed Trade Association (Gafta) rules. Screening begins while the crop is still standing, with these early investigations accounting for about 15-20% of the tests. The rest of the samples are then taken when the grain is in storage or at the first collection point. Sampling is completed within four months of the harvest.
All samples are analyzed at one of six laboratories in the region – Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, or Serbia – using LC-MS/MS and HPLC. The data produced by SGS is targeted and specific, and can help identify potential problem areas at a very early stage. This data will help food manufacturers identify supply chain problems, affording them time to make alternative arrangements to protect their brand from potential contamination and/or supply chain interruptions.
Food companies need to be aware of the dangers of mycotoxins. Their ability to travel from the farm to the plate unaffected by the many stages of the supply chain mean they pose a serious risk to human health. SGS’s network of laboratories which deliver mycotoxins testing worldwide and our European Mycotoxin Monitoring Program are effective risk mitigation tools for companies seeking to protect both their customers and their brands.
For more information, please contact:
Vice President Business Development
t: +41 22 739 93 74