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PODCAST: What you need to know about mycotoxin risk in 2022

Swamy Haladi, mycotoxin program manager at Trouw Nutrition, discusses the 2021 Global Risk Analysis for mycotoxins.


Trouw Nutrition’s mycotoxin program manager, Swamy Haladi, discusses the global risk for mycotoxins from the company’s 2021 analysis.

PODCAST: What you need to know about mycotoxin risk in 2022 (17:14)

Ann Reus: Hello and welcome to the Feed Strategy podcast. I’m your host, Ann Reus, senior reporter for Feed Strategy.

Swamy Haladi is mycotoxin program manager at Trouw Nutrition. Trouw recently released its 2021 Global Risk Analysis for mycotoxins, and Dr. Haladi is here to talk about what that analysis found.

Hello Swamy, thanks for being here.

Swamy Haladi: Thank you, Ann, thank you so much. Nice to be talking to you here.

Reus: Can you start off by explaining the Big 6 mycotoxins and how prevalent they are in Trouw’s 2021 mycotoxin analysis?

Haladi: Yes, of course. Every year, we pretty much in the month of February, we do this what we call is the global mycotoxin data release based on the analysis we do in 2021 or 2020, depending on the year we release this data and so, it will be a combination of raw materials and feeds, complete feeds that are used in various livestock species for feed production.

So, when we look at 2021 data set, what we have, we found interesting results with aflatoxin contamination, the positive samples coming around 63%. Zearalanone, the second most prevalent at 53%, followed by DON at 48%, fumonisins at 44%, and then ochratoxin A and T-2 are the lower in the in this segment of 39% and 18%.

So, also want to mention this to the listeners that we strictly apply the limit of detection because if you don’t do that, sometimes you tend to see higher percentage of contamination. So basically, what it means about the high percent contamination is if you analyze 100 samples, out of those how many will have the mycotoxin concentration above the limit of detection. So that’s what we call it as a percent contamination.

We also look at the concentrations of mycotoxins, which is very important. And this year, we did it slightly different from what we used to do and what others do is in terms of looking at median value, if you have, let’s say 1,000 samples, we find out the median concentration for aflatoxin, rather than just the average concentrations. So that is something we have been doing and we see somewhere low to medium toxicity for aflatoxin, a medium to high toxicity for zearalanone in terms of the concentrations, except for ochratoxin A, which has a low toxicity, pretty much all of them had low to medium toxicity.

In terms of looking at an average across the species of animals, maybe one species of animal is more susceptible, like piglets. But what I mentioned is, across the species, if we take an average overview, that’s what we saw in 2021, raw materials and feeds and that will, most of those raw materials, at least in some countries, do get carried to the next year in 2022, give us a little bit of an outlook on the potential challenge.

Reus: And why is the median of data points is a better measure than the mean or the average?

Haladi: Yeah. So, we looked at that. What is really interesting when we look at the data, the average is a bit of a funny number, because, if there is one or two big concentrations, let us take an example of aflatoxins. Aflatoxins, generally, you see somewhere around 20, 30 to 5, 10 parts per billion, most of the cases. You seldom see high concentrations beyond 100 ppb of aflatoxins. But what we saw in 2021, a few samples more than 1,500 parts per billion, and that was really scary skewing the data towards the higher average concentrations. And that maybe have a peanut samples coming from somewhere, corn silage, so that doesn’t really reflect the situation in the field. So when we spoke to statisticians and some of my colleagues in this area, we thought that median is a better value, because median is basically, if you have, let’s say, nine samples, five will be the median. Four will be below the five, and 1, 2, 3, 4 and up to 9 – 6, 7, 8, 9. So, pretty much is the central number and it can give us a nice distribution of the toxins, and it’s a bit more realistic, not skewing the data to the to the higher concentrations, or sometimes lower concentrations also. So, we believe that, and that’s what we started implementing from 2021.

Reus: What are emerging mycotoxins and why do they seem to be getting so much attention in recent years?

Haladi: Yeah, I think during our call (webinar), we did mention about that emerging mycotoxins because, especially in the European Union, their observation has been that these emerging mycotoxins are beyond these Big 6 toxins, what we mentioned earlier – the Big 6 being aflatoxins, ochra, T-2, DON fumonisin and zearalenone – and what they’re observing is, through some of the incidences, the evidence for these incidences, through the university research or through some industry research, they found close to 15, 20 different mycotoxins are the concentrations they are becoming more, or I would say, the evidence of their presence is becoming more and more, but they are not analyzed regularly by the customers. And also, they are not being legislatively regulated. So there is no one going to tell you that your food is bad, because you have an emerging mycotoxins because there is no regulation on that. So that’s why, but since their incidences are increasing, they are getting more important.

Just to mention a few toxins, fusaric acid, for example, part of the fusarium and group, and I did some research in the past, that fusaric acid increases the toxicity of DON. So, these emerging mycotoxins – enniatins, another example, moniliformin is another example. In all these toxins, I think there is some evidence to increase the toxicity of those Big 6 mycotoxins. So, I think that’s why they’re getting importance these days.

Reus: And what is the prevalence of the emerging mycotoxins compared with the Big 6 in the 2021 analysis?

Haladi: Very good question, Ann, but unfortunately, we didn’t analyze those because customers usually look at these Big 6 toxins. And just to remind the audience that what we do the analysis is actually from the customers. It’s not just we do kind of a survey, it’s basically routine quality control analysis. In some cases, maybe there is a challenge in terms of animal performance. So, it’s a practical data, what we gather, and so we don’t really analyze emerging mycotoxins, but what I see from others and also from scientific evidences, I think their incidences are increasing, depending on the weather pattern, of course, some years there will be more, some years will be less.

But yes, definitely fusaric acid if you take an example. It’s an emerging mycotoxin, but we do know quite a bit about that. And that is present more often than deoxynivalenol or DON, the Big 6 toxin. So, definitely they are an issue. I think we are also looking at LC-MS/MS to enhance these emerging mycotoxin analysis capabilities, so I think in the in the next few years, you will hear more about that from us.

Reus: How does weather affect mycotoxin prevalence, and can you give me some examples of weather events from last year that might have contributed to mycotoxins?

Haladi: The impact of weather is very high. In fact, a lot of research is going on either in climate change or global warming as an impact. Those are small changes, incremental changes, as we see, but there are clear evidences, as I said to you in when we were discussing earlier, I’m very fortunate to have some experience both from the temperate regions of the world, as I spent more than 10 years in Canada, so worked quite a bit in the U.S. as well, and also working in Asian region. So, if you look at the temperate regions in Europe and North America, during the flowering season, we call silking season, for corn and wheat, during that season if there is more rainfall, because if you take an example of Canada, a lot of lakes around it, even eastern U.S. So, you see a lot of rain during those months of July, August, which is very conducive for the fusarium fungus to grow. And that’s why you see a lot of DON in that particular time. Or, excess rainfall has been a challenge pretty much every year, but maybe different parts of the world.

And the second one is, if you look at the tropical countries, you see a lot of challenges in Africa and Asia with drought situations, less rainfall, more stress to the corn while growing another crops. So you see more of Aspergillus, aflatoxins being produced, fumonisins increasing. So those are depending on which part of the world you’re growing the crops, you see these challenges. And excess rainfall or floods during the harvesting so, unfortunately, the crop producers cannot dry them properly and then you have more storage mycotoxins like ochratoxin A increasing.

So yes, in 2021, different parts of the world to look at globally all these incidences that happened – Asia, a lot of floods and rainfall in the later part of 2021. And in some other parts of the world, rainfall during the crop growing production, so all that contributed to increased incidences of mycotoxins.

Reus: Can you tell me about some mycotoxin mitigation strategies, and do those strategies differ depending on whether you’re dealing with the Big 6 or emerging mycotoxins, or maybe like you said, by different regions?

Haladi: Yeah, of course, I think, these mitigation strategies, honestly, vary from region to region, depending upon the type of toxin you’re looking at. And, if you look at aflatoxins, fortunately, good quality clay can do the job quite nicely. But if you look at other toxins, T-2, zearalenone, binding by these clays also noticed, but if you start looking at DON, fumonisins, these toxins are very difficult to bind. And what we are trying to do is that looking at what is the impact of these toxins on the gut health, on the immune system or the antioxidant system. Based on those negative effects, we start developing or putting together our mitigation strategy in terms of including an immune modulator, gut health-promoting component, in addition to the binding agent. In ruminant animals, the antioxidant becomes very important, antioxidant system becomes very important also.

And when it comes to these emerging mycotoxins, some of them do have an impact on the antioxidant systems. Take an example of mycophenolic acid in cows, commonly seen in silage, or you can take examples of moniliformin and broiler chickens. All these do have an impact on the antioxidant system. So, I think a combination of technologies we need to look at. And apart from that, basic good management of silos, good management of feed, production, good hygiene. And all these are very, very critical. There is no silver bullet for mycotoxin management. You need to have what I call a 10-point system, or different levels you need to manage this challenge, Ann.

Reus: What is the outlook for feed and livestock producers this year regarding mycotoxins and what will need to be done to minimize their effects and ensure safe feed for animals and humans?

Haladi: Well, I think that is another objective for us. You know, when we start looking at 2021 data, I think, in the first few months, that information doesn’t really make a lot of — it’s more of academic importance, right, because the crops you produce in probably March, April, I don’t think you will have them for usage in 2022 But what we’ll look at is, maybe somewhere after July, September, July, August, those crops, you tend to use them for the next year. So, by looking at those and also doing a bit more analysis in 2022, in January, and the good thing about our system is that even I can take the data the previous day of my webinar, because there’s a continuous database improvement. Every day, the data is coming into our system.

So when I look at somewhere between September to the middle of February, data analysis from September 2021 to mid-February 2022, we did see a bit of a high risk for aflatoxins and I would say zearalanone, for especially for dairy and piglets. We did see a bit of fumonisins, medium to high as well as for DON, pretty much across all the species, and OTA and T-2 to a bit of a low risk, which is kind of expected. Because we do see for a period of last few years a bit of a decline in OTA levels and T-2 levels, in terms of ability to cause the problems in animals.

And that’s also nicely fit in with the emerging mycotoxins and because out of these Big 6 toxins, maybe one or two toxins may go out of that Big 6. And maybe in the future, one or two toxins comes from those list of emerging mycotoxins to make it Big 6, Big 10, going forward.

So, I think it’s important that we take all these together and continue to do the good monitoring and good analysis, increase the number of mycotoxins being analyzed, and that should help our producers to produce more safe feed and also safe food for the consumers.

Reus: Thank you, Swamy, for your expertise and thanks to the listeners for tuning in.

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