Multi-Tox Tests Minimize Rising Risks for Grain Elevator Operators

Global awareness of multiple mycotoxin co-presence in grain is driving a wave of concern through the food and feed supply chain, resulting in increased scrutiny on the entry point for grain and grain-co-products into the food chain: grain elevators. While many of those managing inbound grain know about the multi-toxin threat, most are unaware of their cumulative toxic effects and the tremendous new risk to brand reputation co-presence poses.

Multi-Tox Tests Minimize Rising Risks for Grain Elevator Operators

Recent research reveals single-mycotoxin testing as a myopic protocol that can yield serious consequences for the businesses that rely solely upon them.

Our world has changed. If there’s one thing the global COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it’s the need to test for the kind of conditions that could precipitate a crisis like this again.

Though less immediate, there’s another widespread threat to human and animal health that could also endanger any agricultural grain-based business’ bottom line. Mycotoxins that attach to mold spores, dust, or other flying particles present a rising risk that can appear anywhere within the agricultural products supply chain.

Though past mycotoxin-based recalls have hit animal feed and pet food industries hardest, the risk to human health cannot be ignored. The adverse health effects of these fungus-borne toxins range from acute poisoning to such long-term diseases as immune deficiency and even cancer.

Infographic showing how many more trucks TotalTox moves in an 8 hour day
Multi-toxin testing won’t slow you down. Click to see how TotalTox speeds past other tests.

No one is more critical in monitoring for mycotoxins than the grain elevator operators who serve as the gateway between field and factory. Consequently, these same evaluators of incoming stocks are also most at risk for the repercussions from tainted grains that can echo throughout the entire feed and food production line.

Balancing Test & Transport Needs

Grain elevator profitability, of course, rests largely on the need to keep inbound stocks moving, making the balance between grain testing and transport a critical formula for weighing potential risks against operational efficiency. Zeroing in to test solely for the local mycotoxin with the highest probability for contamination certainly seems like a logical strategy for targeting that sweet spot between threats and gains. That spot shrinks, however, when considering global changes to both the climate and grain supply chains that increase the chance of mycotoxins spreading across the planet and through production lines.

Still, many grain handlers take the calculated risk to target only their local mycotoxin threat. But even if that test yields a finding below FDA toxicity limits, there is another factor that can invalidate those results. Recent research reveals single-mycotoxin testing as a myopic protocol that can yield serious consequences for the businesses that rely solely upon them.

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Toxic Cocktails from Multiple Mycos

Numerous reputable studies from sources such as the National Institutes of Health report the regular occurrence of multiple mycotoxins in grain samples. (One 2017 study found that 75% of samples contained more than one mycotoxin.) The effects of these mycotoxin “cocktails” are widespread, diverse, and profound. They fall into four categories, depending upon the toxins involved and the concentrations of each.

“Additive” and “Synergistic” effects are the most common. “Additive” effects can increase the toxicity of these mixtures to produce levels much greater than those yielded by a single toxin alone. “Synergistic” effects are even more dire—with toxicity reaching higher levels than the predicted additive effect noted above.

“Potentiated” effects come from the combination of a benign fungal agent with a mycotoxin, producing toxicity levels greater than when that mycotoxin appears alone. Finally, the only positive effect among these mixes is the “Antagonism” effect, where the combined toxicity of two mycotoxins falls to a level lower than at least one of them.

Failing Scores from Single Tests

A real-world example of this biochemical dance between two of the most common corn mycotoxins illustrates the limits of single-toxin testing and the grain safety standards tied to them. USDA guidelines set a value for the limit of fumonisin in poultry feed to 100 parts per million as the acceptable limit for toxicity. But when combined with aflatoxin (commonly found in grain stocks containing fumonisin) the additive effect has the potential to raise toxicity well above that benchmark.

The chart below gives a statistical glimpse of this story. It shows the cumulative effects of these two toxins that can rise to threaten “cell viability” at a level four times greater than that of either mycotoxin alone. That possibility grants a corn load that passes a single mycotoxin test the potential for the kind of contamination that could present a widespread health hazard—not to mention a lethal blow to the grain elevator that first vouched for its product’s safety.

Chart showing additive toxicity of aflatoxin and fumonisin

Learn more about Multi-Toxin testing!

Along with the hope for a planet that is better prepared for future viral perils, COVID-19 has underscored that our mutual wellbeing is dependent upon both our physical and economic health. Within the agricultural industry, that holistic formula simply means that those who keep our country fed must stay in business to do so.

That mandate has inspired EnviroLogix’ pioneering work in agricultural grain testing since day one. Our new TotalTox tests represent the latest realization of that mission. Their ability to evaluate the contamination levels of up to four mycotoxins at once represents the vital tool that today’s grain elevator operators need. It can provide a single, speedy solution that keeps grain trucks rolling while bolstering the food safety that meets the demands of a challenging and changing world.

Recent EnviroLogix articles about mycotoxins and co-occurrence

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