Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites of moulds, contaminating a wide range of crop plants and fruits. Such contaminated crops are toxic to humans and livestock, and hence, a major health issue for the consumer. To ensure food and feed safety, more than a hundred countries have established regulations for mycotoxins in food and feed. Consequently, reliable and efficient mycotoxin testing solutions.
With over 30 years of experience in this field, Romer Labs® offers a comprehensive portfolio of mycotoxin testing solutions. Here we delve into the importance of assessing the risk that mycotoxins pose to farm animals and feed producers and investigate the two main classes of mycotoxin detection solutions: rapid, on-site tests and analytical services.
Mycotoxins: an emerging threat
The last decade has witnessed a growing discussion among feed producers, farmers and researchers on mycotoxins and the effects they have on poultry, swine and ruminants. Players in the industry are harnessing this growing awareness to better assess the risks that mycotoxins pose to both animal health and business value. At the same time, regulating bodies have reacted by creating and enforcing increasingly stringent guidelines, adding a sense of greater urgency to mycotoxin awareness in the food and feed industries. These formerly tentative considerations have grown into a significant industry that is continually looking for the most effective mycotoxin deactivation strategies and solutions for livestock.
A frequently unacknowledged component of mycotoxin risk management strategies, such as mycotoxin deactivation in feed, is the consistent analysis and measurement of mycotoxin levels. As technology designed to counteract the negative effects of mycotoxins in animals has evolved, so has our ability to identify and quantify mycotoxin contamination in both raw materials and finished feed. It is now relatively simple to enforce regulatory guidelines and limits and to stay informed about how to manage the challenges that mycotoxins pose to the industry.
Accurate measurement of mycotoxin levels is an indispensable component of an effective feed production system. Traders and producers of raw materials and others in the feed industry now have a wide array of options and solutions at their disposal to measure mycotoxin contamination and assess the accompanying risk. By which criteria can they determine the methods that best fit their needs? For decades, taking samples and sending them to an analytical service provider was the chief – and, in some cases, only – method for determining the presence of mycotoxins. The advent of on-site rapid tests has disrupted this model; they are widely available at less cost and greater simplicity and ease of use. Criteria that inform which method to choose include these: frequency and volume of testing, the business needs determining the acceptable time-to-result, and the degree of need for reference testing.
On-site vs. analytical services
The first step in finding the right testing solution is to decide whether to conduct the test yourself on-site (e.g. in the field or at the production facility), or to send the samples to an analytical service laboratory.
The two most popular on-site methods are strip tests (LFDs, or lateral flow devices) and ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) tests. Strip tests are designed to show results as soon as possible, though they can process no more than two samples at a time. They are therefore often used at reception points in the supply chain of agricultural raw commodities. ELISA kits can test up to 44 samples simultaneously. In general, ELISA is the better option when six or more samples are under analysis, lowering total testing time and cost per sample.
Analytical service testing
Analytical service labs have their own range of services and technologies from which customers can choose. In addition to classic ELISA, reference methods such as HPLC (high- performance liquid chromatography) and LC-MS/MS (liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry) are on offer.
There are several key differences between these three methods. Whereas ELISA is a low-cost option that can target only one analyte per test run, HPLC and LC-MS/MS are highly sensitive and can target multiple analytes, with the latter able to analyse many more toxins simultaneously. The costs for HPLC and LS- MS/MS are correspondingly higher.
On-site testing methods offer a number of advantages, namely speed, cost and ease of use. The reference methods available from an analytical service laboratory will provide greater precision for a larger number of analytes, delivering a more comprehensive picture of the degree of contamination, albeit at higher cost. Rapid tests are a good option for raw commodity screening. For finished feed, an analytical service or validated rapid test may be used. Feed producers should not let the increasing array of options and choices distract them from this simple principle: it is impossible to manage what is not measured.
ABOUT ROMER LABS
Romer Labs® is about much more than mycotoxins. Though we were founded in 1982 as a mycotoxin testing company, we have since grown to become a leading global provider of diagnostic solutions for the agricultural, food and feed industries. We offer a broad range of rapid tests and analytical services covering mycotoxins, food pathogens, food allergens, gluten, GMO, veterinary drug residues, and other food contaminants.
Furthermore, we operate four accredited, full-service laboratories in Austria, the UK, the USA and Singapore. Using cutting-edge technology in the fields of chromatography and immunological analysis, our labs offer services for the analysis of mycotoxins, food allergens, meat speciation, VDR and GMO.
We are dedicated to providing scientifically sound, high-quality products and exceptional service, all in pursuit of one guiding vision: Making the World’s Food Safer®.
Along with BIOMIN, Sanphar and EFB, Romer Labs is part of the ERBER Group.