For an effective mycotoxin risk management, feed manufacturers should always consider a basic principle:
YOU CANNOT MANAGE WHAT YOU DO NOT MEASURE.
Prof.Dr. Emrah Torlak Necmettin Erbakan Üniversitesi
Global Technical Product Manager
For producers who want to manage mycotoxin risk, continuous monitoring of feed production line inputs is mandatory.
For an effective mycotoxin detection program, feed producers should select a combination of method and device that best fit their needs.
Feed manufacturers have a wide variety of options and solutions to evaluate mycotoxin contamination and associated risks. So, how can they determine the most suitable mycotoxin detection methods for risk assessment purpose?
Until recently, sampling and sending them to an external laboratory was the primary method for determining the mycotoxin contaminations in the feed industry. The emergence of rapid tests that offer lower cost and ease of use thanks to on-site testing has eliminated the need for an external laboratory for mycotoxin detection. However, the number of tests, the business needs that determine the acceptable result-time period and the degree of need for accredited results are the criteria that should be taken into account in the selection of appropriate methods. Factors affecting test method decisions are mentioned below;
The first step in finding the right testing solution is to decide whether to conduct the test yourself on-site (e.g. at the storage or production facility), or to send the samples to an analytical service laboratory. This decision depends on three main considerations:
1) Testing throughput
For high test numbers, it would be correct to choose an on-site test alternative, as the costs will generally be lower than analytical service laboratories. If you need a small number of tests, it may be more convenient to send your samples to the external laboratory.
2) Acceptable time-to-result
On-site rapid tests can give results in a few minutes to a few hours, depending on the technology of the test method. The fast test result makes these tests a suitable tool for decisions that should be taken in a short time, such as whether raw material acceptance or product delivery will be made. Analytical service provided by external laboratories can last from a few days to a week, from start to finish.
On-site rapid tests can detect target mycotoxins at limit values defined in national or international regulations. However, reference methods used by external laboratories providing analytical service offer higher method performance in terms of precision, precision and accuracy.
Among the rapid tests, the most popular are strip tests (Immunochromatography) and ELISA (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) tests. Strip tests are designed to obtain the test results as quickly as possible. The number of samples that can be tested simultaneously with strip tests is limited, and are often used at purchase points in the supply chain of agricultural raw materials. Many samples can be tested simultaneously with ELISA kits and, in general, ELISA may be a better option if six or more samples are to be tested simultaneously. Thus, total test time and test cost per sample can be reduced.
Analytical service labs
Analytical service laboratories are able to offer several test methods based on different technologies to their customers. In addition to conventional ELISA methods, methods that require advanced instrumental devices such as HPLC (High performance liquid chromatography) and LC-MS/MS (Liquid chromatography - tandem mass spectrometry) are among these methods. Compared to ELISA, HPLC and LC-MS/MS methods are very sensitive and make it possible to detect multiple analytes simultaneously. However, the costs of HPLC and LS-MS/MS methods are higher than ELISA methods.
Raw materials vs. finished product
Constant monitoring of the input of a feed production line is imperative for producers looking to manage mycotoxin risk. Applying rapid tests to screen incoming raw material used in feed production is a common practice nowadays. Protocols for rapid test methods are available for most commodities. Catching materials contaminated by mycotoxins before they enter the production line can help prevent more costly problems later on.
The final product, consisting of different components, is more complex in terms of testing. Depending on the amount of final product that requires monitoring, manufacturers may prefer rapid tests or send samples to analytical service laboratories. For smaller feed producers and producers who frequently change the composition of their feeds, it may be more appropriate to get service from an external laboratory. For larger feed producers who do not have to change their formulation frequently, it is possible to create customized protocols for rapid testing. To reliably test finished product with rapid tests, it is recommended to follow a protocol that has been adapted and verified for the specific feed formulation.
The growing popularity of rapid tests for mycotoxins creates more choice for feed producers. On-site testing methods offer a number of advantages, namely speed, cost and ease-of-use and they are a good option for less complex commodities. The reference methods available from an analytical service laboratory will provide greater precision for a larger number of analytes, delivering a more comprehensive picture of the degree of contamination, albeit at higher cost.
For an effective mycotoxin risk management, feed manufacturers should always consider a basic principle: you cannot manage what you do not measure.