Automated tests shed more light on the mycotoxin threat

Multiplex testing for a range of mycotoxins down to a level of two parts per billion marks a new era in grain and feed quality management


Mycotoxins have become a growing concern due to irregular climate conditions, particularly hot and humid weather. These conditions provide an ideal environment for mycotoxins such as aflatoxin B to thrive, posing significant risks to both animal health and food safety.


Relieving the burden of manual testing

Within busy labs, testing has proven to be a burdensome task for staff. The traditional methods are time-consuming, labor-intensive, and prone to inconsistencies and errors. The consequences of inadequate testing extend downstream in the supply chain, leading to poor animal growth, compromised animal health, and potential risks to human health if mycotoxins contaminate the food chain, for example, via dairy cattle feed to milk and then cheese.

Recognizing the challenge, producers like Comazoo feed cooperative in northern Italy have embraced laboratory automation as a solution. Comazoo has adopted the MycoFoss™ automated mycotoxin tester, a powerful tool that has revolutionized their testing processes.

The implementation of MycoFoss has allowed the laboratory at Comazoo to meet standards reliably while freeing up valuable time and resources. In a recent video interview, laboratory manager Roberta Benini emphasizes that the MycoFoss system offers a fully automated process, enabling any operator to perform mycotoxin testing efficiently. This automated solution has proven particularly valuable in handling a regular flow of trucks carrying raw materials like maize that requires thorough testing before unloading.

Consistent tests down to two ppb helps to set new de-facto standards 

A particular area of concern is when maize is to be used for dairy feed. Comazoo's feed plant is situated close to major cheese-producing regions in northern Italy, such as Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano. The presence of aflatoxins in maize used for dairy cows' feed poses a significant risk, as it can lead to milk contamination and ultimately affect the quality and safety of the cheese produced from it. 

This provides a prime example of how proactive strategies are becoming increasingly important as extreme weather conditions that encourage mycotoxins become more common. As the uncertainty about incoming raw materials grows, the ability to test consistently to levels as low as two ppb supports goals to raise the bar on standards. ”We have internal limits that are even lower than the legal limits,” says Benini. “For dairy cows, we consider it should not exceed two ppb. If it goes up to six ppb, we can transfer it to use for beef cattle and pigs. Anything above six ppb, which is still a low level and still within legal levels, we are contractually permitted to reject.”  

Her comments are echoed by other forward-looking laboratories across the grain and feed industry that FOSS has spoken to in connection with the MycoFoss. The value of automation in freeing-up resources and ensuring consistency in testing is a common theme that sets the breathing space required for a more aggressive approach to the mycotoxin threat. 

Multiplexing expands the quality control horizon

Another theme is that the ability to test up to six different mycotoxins in a single test is providing important new insights into the true nature of the threat from mycotoxins.


Through its multiplexing feature, the instrument delivers up to six results at a time on the same sample with no extra work involved. Users of the MycoFoss are finding that this encourages a broader screening that can shed new light on potential issues for the supply chain. For instance, higher levels of DON in barley have been seen even though levels of others such as aflatoxin B are low or non-existent. 

Summing up the automation advantage

While MycoFoss is still quite a new concept, use in the field clearly indicates some areas where it is of particular value:


Compared to manual methods, it ensures consistent results, reducing the potential for human error and variability in testing
The automation provided by MycoFoss streamlines the testing process, allowing operators to complete tasks faster and allocate resources more effectively
Measuring a range of mycotoxins down to two ppb, MycoFoss enables laboratories to not only meet legal standards, but also to adopt a more ambitious approach to internal standards 
The multiplexing aspect can yield ‘aha’ moments with the potential to plug gaps in the current supply chain testing regime

Given the present challenges to the supply chains, such advances offer a timely opportunity for busy grain and feed laboratories to take mycotoxin testing to a new level while freeing-up valuable resources. What’s more, it’s an approach that will become increasingly essential to the protection of our grain and feed supply against the ever-growing threat of contamination with harmful mycotoxins. 


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