Mycotoxins are toxic metabolites produced by molds. They can have serious acute and chronic effects on the health of humans as well as animals. Mycotoxin analysis of food and feed is therefore necessary and often required by legislation. Modern test kits allow rapid qualitative and quantitative analysis of mycotoxins.
Throughout history, mycotoxins (as we know them now) have impaired the quality of agricultural products. Major commodities such as corn, wheat, rice, soy and peanuts can be contaminated with mycotoxins, depending on growth conditions and storage conditions. So can other commodities like rye, oats, hazelnuts, figs, grapes or spices be affected by mycotoxins. The consumption of mycotoxin contaminated products may have acute toxic health effects on humans and animals as well as chronic effects. Besides health costs also direct economic factors play a role like decreased efficiency in the growth of farm animals, trade losses because of import and export limitations and direct losses in revenue of crop value. To protect the health of consumers and animals worldwide, legislations for mycotoxins are in place.
We offer test kits for all relevant mycotoxins from aflatoxin to zearalenone. Please choose a specific mycotoxin to find out more about it:
Methods for mycotoxin analysis
The analysis of mycotoxins presents some unique challenges: Mould fungus toxins are naturally occurring contaminants. Production prior to harvest is affected by weather conditions, as well as agricultural practices; production after harvest depends upon storage conditions. This puts certain challenges on the risk management of mycotoxins: Where, when, how often and how many do I test?
Mycotoxins are spread very inhomogeneously throughout a product and maybe present at very low levels. Samples to be tested may be analytically simple matrices such as wheat, corn or maybe very complicated matrices like spices, coffee or complex mixtures of ingredients as in animal feed. It is very important to choose the right sampling and analytical method for the product to be tested. R-Biopharm offers a wide range of analytical methods for mycotoxin analysis. Depending on matrix, number of samples, time to result, ease of use and available equipment, we can offer you the appropriate testing format:
ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays) test kits are accurate and easy to use. ELISA test kits arethe ideal solution for a measurement of multiple samples. R-Biopharm offers two product lines for ELISA:
Short incubation times of as low as 8 – 15 minutes, for mostly up to 19 samples in single determination in one run.
Low limit of detection (LOD). With incubation times of e.g. 75 minutes for up to 42 samples in double determination. Due to the longer incubation times these test kits can be automated using the e.g. ThunderBolt®.
The main advantages of ELISA are that it is fast for a high number of samples, low cost for set up and minimal training required. ELISA can be automated using the e.g. ThunderBolt®. Cost effectiveness for automation requires a minimum of 4 to 5 samples tested per ELISA run. Results are measured with an ELISA plate reader, such as the RIDA® Absorbance 96.
In general, testing of raw ingredients can be done with on-site rapid test. Results are available in minutes and require only a minimal amount of training and equipment. While conventional LFD kits use an organic solvent, more environmentallyfriendly kits use a water extraction to avoid organic solvent waste.
To remove subjectivity in the evaluation, digital reading of quantitative results is carried out with the RIDA®SMART APP.
The screening cards AFLACARD® and OCHRACARD® are specially designed to get a rapid, semi-quantitative result for more complex commodities.
Immunoaffinity columns (IAC) (e.g. RIDA®, EASI-EXTRACT®, PREP®) contain monoclonal antibodies making them highly selective. Further advantages are:
- Excellent sample clean-up, especially with complex commodities. This makes it possible to use solvent based standards with LC-MS/MS detection.
- Clean eluates mean that there is no requirement for matrix matched or isotopic labelled.
Solid phase extraction columns (SPE) use selected solid adsorbents to bind interfering components and pigments, allowing the mycotoxins to be easily analyzed. Further benefits are:
- Non-specific clean-up, making this an ideal clean-up tool for the analysis of multi-toxins in simple matrices like cereals.
- Simple, fast and cost-effective clean-up providing an excellent screening test in conjunction with LC-MS/MS.
- Can be used in combination with matrix matched standards removing the requirement for expensive isotopic labelled standards.
HPLC and LC-MS/MS are also reference methods if it comes to legal issues. The main advantages of High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and LC-MS/MS are their high sensitivity, applicability to complex matrixes and accuracy. However, to obtain top-notch HPLC and LC-MS/MS performance, an optimized sample clean-up using solid phase or immunoaffinity columns are required.
For very high sample throughput, fully automated systems like CHRONECT Symbiosis RIDA®CREST using immunoaffinity cartridges can be used up to 15 times. With LC-MS/MS all regulated mycotoxins are detected as well as most common masked andemerging metabolites. It is also possible to analyse other parameters such as pesticides and veterinary drugs.
Mycotoxins generally co-occur in different commodities. It is not unusual to find different trichothecenes in one product, sometimes even in combination with zearalenone. Other commodities might contain both aflatoxin and ochratoxin or aflatoxin and fumonisin. Multi-mycotoxin methods are able to detect multiple mycotoxins simultaneously. We offer solutions for an effective multi-mycotoxin clean-up prior to analysis with HPLC or LC-MS/MS.
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Challenges in mycotoxin analysis
Mycotoxins are an important global food safety issue. They are stable during processing and are therefore found in raw materials as well as in processed food and feed. In many countries mycotoxins are regulated with stringent limit values.
Regular mycotoxin screening is the foundation of protecting human and animal health. At each level in the food chain analytical testing helps to understand how to manage risks.
Mycotoxin methods used depending on lab size
In today’s technologically fast-moving world, lateral flow tests, ELISA, HPLC and LC/MS-MS are the most common testing methods. Different analytical approaches are used for the detection of individual or mixtures of mycotoxins depending on the lab equipment available (see figure next page). Lateral flow tests in combination with the RIDA®SMART APP are very fast and easy for use in the field or testing of raw materials. ELISA test kits are the ideal solution for a parallel measurement of multiple samples with incubation times of as low as 15 minutes for up to 42 samples.
The main advantages of ELISA are that they are fast, inexpensive and giving reliable results. Automation of ELISA is possible using the e.g. Bolt™ or ThunderBolt®. Reference methods for the quantitative and qualitative determination of mycotoxins are basically chromatographic systems such as HPLC and LC-MS/MS. However, these tests are time consuming, expensive and highly skilled technicians are needed to carry out the analysis. With more than 30 years of experience in mycotoxin detection, the R-Biopharm Group provides the broadest range of mycotoxin testing solutions for the whole production process.
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