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Mycotoxins refer to a diverse group of compounds produced by a wide range of different fungi, normally after a phase of balanced growth. Plant genetics, exposure to fungal spores, weather conditions and climate during planting, growing and harvesting, insect damage, crop management and use of fungicides, are some of the factors that influence the growth of fungi on crops and their subsequent mycotoxin production. Mycotoxin-producing fungi are commonly sub-divided into field fungi and storage fungi; however, the actual colonization and proliferation of fungi is not clear cut, but depends on the environmental and ecological circumstances, and the resulting toxins will differ accordingly.

Mycotoxins in Feedstuffs | Martin Weidenbörner | Springer

Moisture and temperature have a major influence on mold growth and mycotoxin production. Interestingly, the presence of mycotoxin-producing fungi in a plant is not always conducive to contamination with mycotoxins. In order for fungi to produce these secondary metabolites, they have to be stressed by some factor [ 2 ], such as nutritional imbalance, drought or water excess. This paper gathers information on the presence of mycotoxins in the commodities most commonly used for feed production and in finished feed through a period of 3 years. From January until December , 23, mycotoxin analyses were performed on samples sourced in North and South America the Americas , Europe and Asia.

Middle Eastern and African samples were gathered in previously published reports [ 3 , 4 ] and were therefore excluded from this paper. Data is grouped for discussion as follows: per calendar year, in order to potentially show different trends in mycotoxin occurrence in distinct years; by commodity type and within the same commodity, and by region, to potentially reveal differences in mycotoxin contamination in commodities sourced in diverse regions.

Table 1 reflects the contamination of all samples, regardless of their nature, for the sum of the three years, and then separated by calendar year. Positive samples respectively averaged contamination levels of 63, , , and 11 ppb for these mycotoxins. When data is separated by year, these values actually do not greatly differ. Within the three years of the study, the highest level of Afla was found in a corn sample from Vietnam maximum: ppb ; two wheat samples from Australia had the highest DON maximum: 23, ppb and ZEN maximum: 49, ppb levels found, while finished feed from China and Pakistan presented the highest levels of FUM maximum: 77, ppb and OTA maximum: ppb , respectively.

Annual global trend regarding mycotoxin occurrence in corn, soybean meal SBM , wheat, dried distillers grains with solubles DDGS and finished feed samples surveyed in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Table 2 , Table 3 , Table 4 , Table 5 , Table 6 , Table 7 , Table 8 , Table 9 , Table 10 , Table 11 , Table 12 present data referring to mycotoxin contamination in different feedstuffs and finished feed, globally and separated by geographical region sourced.

Mycotoxin occurrence in corn samples surveyed in North and South America and in Central and Southern Europe no corn samples sourced in Northern Europe were surveyed. Mycotoxin occurrence in soybean meal samples surveyed in North and South America and in Central and Southern Europe no soybean meal samples sourced in Northern Europe were surveyed. Mycotoxin occurrence in finished feed samples surveyed in Northern, Central and Southern Europe. The corn contamination pattern differed between regions Table 2 and Table 3.

Average contamination levels were quite similar for both regions North America average of positive: ppb; Central Europe average of positive: ppb. Average contamination levels in both regions were different, with South American samples presenting higher values average of positive: ppb in comparison with Southern Europe average of positive: ppb. Nonetheless, as the data show, the presence of fusariotoxins, such as FUM and DON, in these regions cannot be ignored.

In comparison with corn, soybean meal SBM appears to be less susceptible to mycotoxin contamination Table 4 and Table 5. In general, it can be said that mycotoxins such as ZEN and DON occur most frequently in this commodity throughout all regions. This shows that even this commodity might unexpectedly present high contamination levels when conditions are favorable for mycotoxin production.

According to data presented in Table 6 , Table 7 , Table 8 , the major contaminant of wheat throughout all regions was DON. ZEN was also shown to be a main contaminant of this commodity, which is not a great surprise, as it is commonly known to co-occur with DON, a mycotoxin that shares the same producing fungi. A wheat sample from Austria was analyzed in October and showed a contamination of 49, ppb DON.

Two distinct wheat samples from Australia were contaminated with 49, ppb DON and 23, ppb ZEN, the maximum levels found for this commodity worldwide. Both samples were analyzed in April Actually, the mycotoxin levels registered in both Austria in the year and Australia in the year were much higher than those reported for previous years [ 4 ].

As there is reason to believe that climate change can affect infection of crops with toxigenic fungi, the growth of these fungi and the production of mycotoxins [ 5 ], it is perhaps not erroneous to speculate that the occurrence of heavy rain and floods in both countries prior to crop harvest were responsible for such contamination levels. Data shown in Table 9 reveals very high average levels for contaminated samples, especially for DON. These results reiterate those published in a previous report [ 6 ], thus confirming the need for monitoring the mycotoxin content of DDGS prior to its inclusion in animal diets.

Data shown in Table 10 , Table 11 , Table 12 pertain to finished feeds swine, poultry and dairy. The contamination pattern observed for each region can be related to that of the typically used main feedstuff.

For example, in North American diets, corn is the main ingredient used, which explains to a great extent the prevalence of DON in these feeds. The same situation is observed in South America, where FUM is the main contaminant of corn, thus the major mycotoxin present in finished diets. In northern European countries, finished feeds typically have a higher proportion of cereals such as wheat, thus the matching pattern between wheat and finished feed sourced in this region. Besides this obvious but interesting conclusion, from an animal health and performance point of view, it is important to reiterate the fact that incredibly high maximum levels were found in finished feed samples sourced in all regions, but especially in Asia ppb Afla in South Asia, ppb ZEN, 19, ppb DON and 77, ppb FUM in North Asia and ppb OTA in South Asia.

This draws attention to the fact that animals will frequently be faced with peak and fluctuating mycotoxin levels. Besides being well above regulated and recommended EU-values for the presence of mycotoxins in animal feed [ 7 , 8 , 9 ], the extremely high mycotoxin levels found will greatly impact performance and the health of animals ingesting them. The simultaneous exposure of animals and poultry to more than one toxin is of concern and requires more study [ 10 ]. Synergistic effects may explain why animals sometimes respond negatively to mycotoxin levels much lower than those reported in scientific studies as able to cause mycotoxicoses.

Interestingly, when co-occurrence is evaluated in finished feed from different regions, differences are obvious. The number of analyzed samples totaled in , in and in Samples were sourced directly at animal farms or animal feed production sites from three major regions Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific. From the total number of samples analyzed throughout the 3 years, samples were sourced in North Samples from North America comprise those from the United States of America only 1 sample originated in Canada was analyzed.

However, good sampling methods [ 11 ] were explained and sample providers were advised to follow them. Samples received in the lab weighed approximately 1 kg. After grinding the full lot sample, a subsample was taken for the actual analytical process. For all other commodities and ready-ground samples, kitchen blenders or other adequate instruments were used for homogenization.

Aflatoxin, deoxynivalenol DON , zearalenone ZEA and ochratoxin A OTA are considered the most economically important mycotoxins in terms of their prevalence and their negative effects on animal performance [ 2 , 3 ].

Background

Pigs are particularly susceptible to mycotoxins, suffering a variety of chronic or acute syndromes depending on the amount of contaminants they consume [ 4 ]. Aflatoxins are the most potent of the known mutagenic and carcinogenic natural substances produced by Aspergillus spp.

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There are six types of aflatoxins that frequently contaminate feeds and foods, including B 1 , B 2 , G 1 and G 2. Aflatoxin B 1 AFB 1 has long been considered one of the most poisonous carcinogens [ 6 ]. DON is one of the most frequently detected trichothecene contaminants in cereals [ 9 ]. The ingestion of feeds contaminated with DON leads to feed refusal and weight loss, decreases nutritional efficiency and causes lesions in the gastrointestinal tract, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and severe dermatitis accompanied by hemorrhaging and immune dysregulation.

Swine are typically the most sensitive of the susceptible species in that they exhibit the most severe symptoms of acute DON toxicity [ 10 , 11 ]. ZEA is a non-steroidal estrogenic toxin produced by certain Fusarium species [ 12 ]. ZEA can competitively bind to estrogen receptors leading to reproductive disorders and estrogenic dysfunction in humans and animals especially in breeding animals , impairing fertility and increasing the frequency of stillbirths along with reducing sperm quality [ 12 , 13 ].

Swine are the animal species most severely affected by ZEA [ 14 , 15 ]. OTA, produced by the Penicillium verrucosum fungus and various species of Aspergillus [ 5 ] is a nephrotoxic mycotoxin that causes renal toxicity and possesses carcinogenic, teratogenic immunotoxic and possibly neurotoxic properties [ 6 ]. This toxin has been classified by the IARC as a possible human carcinogen [ 8 ]. Research on the effects of this mycotoxin in swine has revealed that it causes changes in renal function [ 16 ]. China faces a feed shortage.

Occurrence of mycotoxins in feedstuffs of dairy cows and estimation of total dietary intakes.

The feed that is available is frequently contaminated with mycotoxins [ 17 ]. Furthermore, the high prices and scarcity of protein sources for animal feeds have led to the use of alternative protein sources such as distillers dried grains with solubles DDGS. A total of samples including 55 feed ingredients and 76 complete swine feeds were randomly sampled from 15 swine farms in the Beijing region from July through August The samples included 16 samples of corn, 13 samples of wheat bran, 12 samples of soybean meal, and 17 DDGS samples.

The sampling was undertaken in accordance with European Regulation No. Samples were analyzed according to the methods of the AOAC [ 20 ]. If the eluate was found not to be clear, it was passed through an organic filter unit 0. A C18 column 4. The retention time was The retention time was 5.

The retention time was 7. Samples were analyzed according to the methods of the AOAC [ 21 ].

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The analytical methods used were evaluated for linearity, recovery and reproducibility. Standard curves were generated by comparing the linear regressions of peak regions against concentrations. The reproducibility of the method was established by injecting five replicates of the same standard solution on the same day and over five different days.

The data were analyzed using MS Excel, expressed as average contents, detection rates and the percentage of samples that exceeded regulatory limits. The analytical methods were validated for all feed samples and met the performance criteria set by European Regulation No.

The highest concentration of AFB 1 in corn was The average content of ZEA in corn was Occurrence of mycotoxins in feed ingredients and complete swine feeds 1 , 2. Corn is an energy ingredient frequently used in animal feeds in China. The results also showed that corn samples were contaminated with DON at an average value of 1. It was similar to the concentrations of DON The average values and concentrations of OTA in the samples that exceeded regulatory limits was in agreement with survey results that have shown lower contamination levels of OTA than other mycotoxins in corn [ 5 , 23 ].

The occurrence of mycotoxins in DDGS used as an ingredient in pig diets has rarely been studied. Four mycotoxins were found to be prevalent in the DDGS samples used in our study. The percentage of samples containing concentrations of DON that exceeded regulatory limits and the average content of DON detected in these samples were similar to the concentrations of DON that have been found in distillers dried grains with solubles sourced worldwide [ 18 ]. These results may be explained by the fact that mycotoxins in DDGS constituting the remaining portions within the final by-product are up to three times more concentrated than in corn grain [ 24 ].

Furthermore, if improperly stored, DDGS are easily contaminated with more mycotoxins due to their high moisture content. In addition, grains are damaged during the process of DDGS production, which can easily cause the production of more mycotoxins. Moreover, in our study, the DDGS were obtained from the regions lying along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River in Henan, Sichuan and Anhui provinces which are characterized by a moist climate which may contribute to the contamination of corn with mycotoxins [ 25 , 26 ].

What is more, this study has shown that multiple mycotoxins coexist in most feeds and feedstuffs [ 27 , 28 ]. The simultaneous occurrence of contamination by various kinds of mycotoxins leads not only to immune suppression in animals, but also lowered efficiency in animal production [ 29 ]. The samples of wheat bran and soybean meal were analyzed for the presence of four mycotoxins. In general, feed ingredients such as soybean meal and wheat bran were less contaminated with mycotoxins, a finding in agreement with the results of a survey on the worldwide occurrence of mycotoxins in feedstuffs and feed conducted by Rodrigues and Naehrer [ 22 ].

Another reason is that producers and farmers pay more attention to storage conditions because of the high price of soybean meal. Maximum limit regulations for mycotoxins in feedstuffs in China 1 , 2. The highest concentration of DON was detected in starter pig feeds 2.

Although the levels of ZEA and OTA detected in our study did not seem to have any clear clinical effects, there may well be chronic accumulated carry-over effects on animal products over a long period of feed consumption [ 2 ]. In contrast, AFB 1 and DON were found in a high percentage of samples in concentrations that exceeded regulatory limits for swine feeds, which could have clinical effects on gilt and sow health. Indeed, it could lead to the excretion of AFM 1 and to an exposure of piglets to that toxin, since young animals are more sensitive to AFB 1 than adults.

Therefore, the high incidence of mycotoxins found in complete feed samples obtained from swine farms highlights the need for surveillance and prevention.


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The natural occurrence of mycotoxins has been reported in a variety of foods and feeds in many countries [ 31 ]. The maximum admissible levels of these four mycotoxins in feed ingredients and swine complete feeds vary from one country to another with legislation prescribing mandatory upper limits that often take the form of product standards [ 32 ]. The wide variations in standards have resulted in conflicting perceptions regarding safe levels among the various national agencies. Pigs are among the most sensitive species to all of these toxins [ 4 ]. This is also one of the most frequently exposed species due to its diet based mainly on cereals.

The regulation is presented as a consequence of pigs sensitivity in EU, limits for pigs feeds are often lower than those for other species. The toxicology of mycotoxins and the incidence of mycotoxin contamination have aroused public awareness. Health authorities need to take action to mitigate the serious negative effects they can have on humans and animals in China. The reduction of mycotoxin contamination will require an integrated understanding of agronomy, fungal ecology, harvesting methods, storage conditions, feed processing and detoxification strategies [ 33 , 34 ].

This approach can minimize mycotoxin contamination in the food chain through appropriate management of products [ 35 ].

A Three-Year Survey on the Worldwide Occurrence of Mycotoxins in Feedstuffs and Feed

Because mycotoxins are stable chemicals, physical and chemical degradation methods are limited in their effectiveness and include disadvantages such as loss of product nutrition, organoleptic qualities, undesirable health effects and high equipment cost [ 36 ]. These disadvantages have encouraged the development of promising biodegradation methods by which mycotoxins may be detoxified [ 37 , 38 ]. Further periodic investigations of feed ingredients and complete feed samples from various regions in China taken during all seasons are ongoing.

The results of this study should serve as a significant reference for feed manufacturers, animal farms and Chinese regulatory authorities for the future consideration of feed and food safety issues. Periodic surveillance and monitoring of the occurrence of mycotoxins in feed ingredients and in animals are very important for minimizing animal and human health risks.

XYL carried out the statistical analysis and drafted the manuscript. LHZ participated in the chemical analysis. All authors read and approved the final manuscript. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. J Anim Sci Biotechnol. Published online Jul China Find articles by Xiaoying Li. China Find articles by Lihong Zhao. China Find articles by Yu Fan.


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