Monitoring mycotoxin contamination: Where is aflatoxin?

Animal Nutrition Views

Ioannis Mavromichalis, Ph.D., gives his views on poultry, pig and dairy nutrition based on his experience as a nutrition consultant with clients around the world.

Monitoring mycotoxin contamination: Where is aflatoxin?

Back when I was studying animal nutrition, mycotoxins were a largely ignored topic. The main advice found in textbooks was dilution to reduce the level of contamination. It is still practiced today in certain countries where the scientific community remains skeptical about the effectiveness of mycotoxin-neutralizing agents. But, I digress.

Then I started working as a field nutritionist, and it was about the same time when intensive marketing started to make an impact on our collective consciousness regarding the great mycotoxin threat and the availability of highly sophisticated mycotoxin-neutralizing agents. Nevertheless, all we did was add bentonite (or any other such clay) at 1 to 2 percent in the final feed; after all, all samples tested came back high in aflatoxins.

In the last decade, almost all respectable companies engaged in the production and marketing of sophisticated mycotoxin-neutralizing agents conduct annual surveys, often on a global scale, regarding the presence and intensity of mycotoxin contamination. It is an admirable task, given the cost of laboratory analysis at such immense scale.

Nevertheless, and after studying these surveys for many years now, I am left with a very simple question: where is aflatoxin? I see alarming levels of contamination for most non-polar mycotoxins (that require the sophisticated mycotoxin-neutralizing agents), but aflatoxins (that can be addressed by the humble and inexpensive family of clays) are nowhere as "dangerous" anymore.

Did we stop monitoring aflatoxin contamination, or did something happen and suddenly all plants are no longer affected by molds producing polar mycotoxins? Or, should we only worry about aflatoxins for dairy cows — because as far as I know, aflatoxins remain a big topic in dairy nutrition.