Global 2019 Mycotoxin Data: Risk Analysis and the Impact on Animal Production

15 April 2020

(April 15, 2020 – AMERSFOORT, the Netherlands) Trouw Nutrition, a Nutreco company, is releasing findings from the 2019 Global Mycotoxin Risk Analysis. The analysis includes more than 21,000 ingredient and finished feed samples collected from 38 countries across Europe, North America, South/Central America, Middle East/Africa and Asia. Data reflects analysis from more than 200 Mycomaster rapid testing devices worldwide connected to Trouw Nutrition’s global mycotoxin database. Data is reported on grains, by-products, protein sources, silages and complete feeds to provide a timely assessment of mycotoxin risk around the globe.

The prevalence and concentration levels of six common mycotoxins—Deoxynivalenol (DON), Fumonisin (FUMO), Aflatoxins (AFLA), Zearalenone (ZEA), Ochratoxin A (OTA) andT-2/HT-2 toxin (T-2)—is included in the analysis. Beyond insight on the presence of individual mycotoxin threats, the findings are more impactful when considered in context with synergistic threats of multiple mycotoxins present based on type, concentrations and an animal’s duration of exposure. Viewed in context with crop quality, environmental factors, harvest and storage conditions across geographies, mycotoxins exert a significant impact on animal health and performance. And in a global trade environment, mycotoxins present risks to stakeholders across the food chain, including animals and consumers. Following are highlights of the 2019 analysis and a look at some factors that may influence the mycotoxin landscape in 2020.

2019 weather conditions’ impact on mycotoxin risk  

Regional weather conditions contributed to varying mycotoxin risks across geographies in 2019.In the U.S., spring floods in the northern plains and Midwest delayed planting and harvesting of maize, allowing crops to stay in the fields longer and experience more mycotoxin exposure. High temperatures from Texas to the Carolinas supported the increased synthesis of AFLA and FUMO in U.S. maize crops. In Europe, a heat wave led to poor soil moisture, compromising crop quality while maize conditions in China were generally favorable. Turning to wheat, conditions in the Ukraine resulted in a mostly favorable crop, while excess moisture in Canada’s Eastern provinces delayed planting.

Global mycotoxin landscape – prevalence and concentration levels influence risk

Evaluating a composite of global crop samples collected in 2019, more than 90% had a quantifiable presence (>100 ppb) of DON, with between 80 and 90% of samples showing FUMO, AFLA, OTA and ZEA. T-2 levels were lowest, at about 70%. (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Percentage of positive samples









Figure 1. Samples showing % contamination with various mycotoxins

But the presence of a toxin does not paint an accurate picture of risk. A toxin’s concentration level, species type and duration of exposure should be considered. Even low levels of mycotoxins can present consequences for animal performance when these mycotoxins interact. Low levels of T2, OTA and AFLA can be toxic to pigs and poultry for example. Regulatory limits are another factor that must be addressed. For example, the regulatory threshold according to EFSA for AFLA is 5 ppb; and while average global samples were at 5.6 ppb, individual samples tested as high as 1,400 ppb for AFLA (Figure 2, Table 1).

Figure 2








Figure 2. Samples showing range of mycotoxin concentrations. + indicates average. Horizontal line inside the bo indicates median concentration. 
Samples within the boxed area represent 50-60% of all samples.

Table 1. Mycotoxin concentrations in entire dataset

Table 1






The 2019 mycotoxin risk analysis includes analysis for individual ingredients, complete feeds and silages including small grains (wheat and barley) which tested at as high as 88% for DON, to 59% for AFLA (Figure 3). Among byproducts, concentrations in DDGS were significantly higher than in maize, with levels approaching 5,000 ppb (Figure 4).











Figure 3. Among small grains, 88% of samples tested positive for DON

Figure 4. DON concentration in DDGS was significantly higher than maize, with DDGS levels approaching 5,000 ppb. 100% of Maize flour samples globally were contaminated with DON, FUMO, AFLA and ZEA

Looking at protein meals, concentrations of mycotoxins were relatively low compared to cereal grains (Figure 5). However, soybean meal is used at about 25-30% of monogastric diets, and hence can contribute significantly to concentration of toxins in final feed. Sunflower meal showed the greatest concentration of FUMO while levels of DON, AFLA and ZEA were lower.

Among silages, 100% of maize and grass silage samples showed mycotoxin contamination with concentrations that can cause toxicity in ruminant animals (Figure 6).

Figure 5. Among protein meals, soybean meal showed relatively higher concentration of DON while sunflower meal had higher concentration of Fumonisins

Figure 6. Maize and grass silage both showed contamination levels that can cause toxicity to ruminants

Global mycotoxin landscape – pig, poultry and ruminant complete feeds and toxicity risk

Looking at complete feeds including pig, poultry, ruminant and aquaculture, around 84% of samples showed contamination (Figure 7). Evaluating pig feed, samples were found to contain DON at 623 ppb, FUMO at 1662 ppb and ZEA at 52 ppb – a level that may present a synergistic toxicity threat to pigs.  

In poultry feed, DON and FUMO present the greatest risk at 985 ppb and 2,110 ppb respectively. Taken together, these levels can impose a challenge on the bird’s immune system and may also exert a negative effect on the feed conversion ratio.

Global ruminant samples find DON with an average concentration of 1,100 ppb and ZEA with 53 ppb, which can compromise health and performance of dairy cows. On the other hand, AFLA at 5.6 ppb can make it challenging to keep the aflatoxin M1 level in milk below the EU’s regulation of 0.05ppb.

Figure 7. Ruminant feeds showed highest contamination % followed by poultry, swine and aquaculture

Evaluating risk around the globe

Crop growing conditions, species of animals raised, and the raw materials used in feeds vary around the globe. Trouw Nutrition analyzed common mycotoxins across the regions of South/Central America, Europe, Asia, Middle East/Africa, and North America.  DON, FUMO, ZEA, and AFLA contamination was quite similar across the regions except for NA where AFLA had low risk (Figure 8). T-2 toxin and OTA contamination levels were quite different across regions. In South and Central America, high levels of DON, FUMO and ZEA pose a synergistic threat (Table 2). Asia’s primary mycotoxin threat is FUMO and AFLA; but while Asia’s DON levels pose a challenge for swine, they do not present a risk for poultry. In North America (Canada), DON and ZEA are key toxins. In the Middle East/Africa region, DON, AFLA and ZEA are primary mycotoxins and DON and ZEA are the most prevalent mycotoxins in Europe.

Figure 8. As per 2019 analysis, samples from SCA were most contaminated followed by Europe, MEA, Asia and North America

Table 2. Highest DON concentrations were observed in NA while Asia detected highest Fumonisin concentrations
A look at preliminary 2020 Q1 Data

An analysis of samples collected and analyzed by the Mycomaster between January and March 2020, suggests mycotoxin contamination levels are slightly lower than in 2019, but it is too early to get a full picture (Table 3). Average concentration levels of DON were 557 ppb; clearly toxic to pigs. AFLA concentrations were 7.8 ppb, above the EU threshold of 5 ppb. The preliminary data suggests high toxicity to pigs, moderate toxicity to ruminants and low toxicity to poultry.

Table 3. A preliminary analysis of 2020 Q1 ingredients provides an early outlook into the pre-planting mycotoxin landscape

Remarking on the continually shifting mycotoxin landscape, Dr. Swamy Haladi, Trouw Nutrition’s Global Programme Manager for Mycotoxin Risk Management, states, “While the biological susceptibility of crops and environmental conditions cannot be controlled, understanding the presence, concentrations and physiological risks various mycotoxins present to each species through our extensive global database can help farmers manage mycotoxin risk effectively.” Helping farmers manage this risk and produce safe food in a sustainable manner, Trouw Nutrition conducts more than 400 mycotoxin analyses each week evaluating feed ingredients sourced from leading exporters including Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine and U.S. Data allows stakeholders to understand the mycotoxin profile of raw materials and make an informed decision on the level of inclusion of such raw materials in various animal feeds. Dr. Haladi notes, “As farmers around the globe strive to feed 7.9B people in a healthy, safe and sustainable way, mitigating mycotoxin risk supports feed to food safety across the supply chain.”