BIOMIN World Mycotoxin Survey 2018

The latest edition of the annual survey, covering 18,424 agricultural commodity samples from 79 countries with over 81,900 analyses, highlights the main dangers from the most important mycotoxins in primary feedstuffs and their potential risk to livestock animal production.

The results of the BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey provide insight into the incidence of aflatoxins (Afla), zearalenone (ZEN), deoxynivalenol (DON), T-2 toxin (T-2), fumonisins (FUM) and ochratoxin A (OTA) in the primary components used for feed. These include corn (maize), wheat, barley, rice, soybean meal, corn gluten meal, dried distillers grains (DDGS) and silage, among others.

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Risk levels

Because of the powerful sensitivity of state-of-the-art detection tools, it is no longer sufficient to talk about the mere presence of mycotoxins; concentration levels must also be considered. Consequently, the latest results feature a mycotoxin risk map based upon both the presence of mycotoxins and their potential harm to livestock depending on concentration levels associated with known health risks. 
Figure 1 shows mycotoxin occurrence data for each region as a percentage of all samples tested. The overall risk level for a particular region is determined by the percentage of mycotoxins that exceed the risk threshold levels for livestock. The risk thresholds are based on worldwide practical experience in the field and in scientific trials that were conducted to reflect field situations as closely as possible; they also take into account the most sensitive species for each mycotoxin. 
The average risk levels used as a basis do not preclude specific, severe instances of mycotoxin contamination in farms or fields locally, nor do they account for the negative impacts of multiple mycotoxin presence.
The mycotoxin risk map relies upon single mycotoxin occurrence. This may understate the threat posed by mycotoxins to animals given their known synergistic effects (the presence of multiple mycotoxins compounds the potential harm) and subclinical effects (even low levels of mycotoxin contamination can impair animal health and performance). 

Regional insights

South Asia and the China/Taiwan region face the most severe threats of mycotoxin-related risks to livestock. Both regions are confronted with extreme risk, as more than 85% of samples showed a contamination level above the risk threshold levels. Table 1 provides an overview of the number of samples tested, occurrence, average contamination levels and maximum contamination values. In general worldwide, fumonisins and deoxynivalenol were the top threat, with several samples exhibiting co-occurrence of these two mycotoxins.


Europe ranked as a moderate to severe risk region, with more than half of the samples testing above the risk threshold levels; a notable exception was Central Europe, which exhibited a risk threshold of 45%. Samples from Southern Europe showed a very high incidence of FUM, at 84% and an average of 1031 ppb. DON levels in Central and Northern Europe increased in 2018; in Central Europe, the prevalence was also high at 64% with an average of 776 ppb. Northern Europe showed similar levels of DON, with a prevalence of 66% at an average of 724 ppb. DON was especially high, in cereals like wheat, barley, etc., with an average of 912 ppb.


Asia has the highest level of risk this year. In China, FUM and DON are prevalent, particularly in corn. 96% of all corn samples were contaminated with these two mycotoxins. The average contamination of FUM was at 3438 ppb, while DON levels were at 540 ppb on average. South Asia stood apart from other regions, as there were other concerns aside from FUM and DON there. Aflatoxin was present in 44% of all samples tested in South Asia. Furthermore, 87% of samples contained aflatoxins, which for the most part occurred in finished feed samples. The highest regional contamination of Afla was 697 ppb, while that of FUM was at 47,285 ppb. While this last value is high, it is less than a third of last year’s highest occurrence of FUM. ZEN was the third highest occurring mycotoxin in samples from Asia, detected in 65% of those tested. 

North America

DON and FUM represented the greatest threats to livestock animals in North America. DON contamination in cereals rose from 65% in 2017 to 86% in 2018 with an average of 1853 ppb. Fumonisins were present in 70% of corn samples analyzed, with a high average of 3497 ppb. The average concentration of FUM contamination was relatively high for the region (3001 ppb). An important corn sub-product, DDGS, was especially subject to DON contamination: the prevalence was at 98% and there was an average contamination of 1420 ppb. ZEN, Afla and OTA were detected in 34%, 8% and 3% of samples at average levels of 362 ppb, 17 ppb and 13 ppb, respectively. The world’s highest concentration of FUM was detected in North America (130,724 ppb).

South and Central America

Risk was generally high in these regions. Central America exhibited a risk level of 70%, while South America surpassed it at 72%. In South America, DON was present in 88% of cereal samples, testing at high average concentrations (1949 ppb). Further, a maximum concentration of 24,880 ppb was detected. FUM is the most abundant mycotoxin in this region. It contaminates 86% of corn, 100% of DDGS and 89% of finished feed samples. A concentration as high as 72,100 ppb of FUM was found. One particular hotspot for FUM was Argentina; there, FUM was high at 4762 ppb on average.
In Brazil, the most prevalent mycotoxin is FUM with a 73% rate of occurrence and an average contamination of 2144 ppb. The second most prevalent mycotoxin is DON (70%; 1073 ppb). In corn, FUM is the most prevalent mycotoxin with 86% and an average of 2605 ppb.

Middle East

The Middle East showed a severe level of risk with a total threshold level of 60%. In particular, the prevalence of FUM, DON and ZEN is on the rise here, with contamination levels of 87%, 65% and 71%, respectively. There was an even bleaker picture for samples of corn, with a 100% prevalence of FUM at an average of 3101 ppb.


As in 2017, the most common mycotoxin in Africa was DON, detected in 77% of all samples analyzed; the average concentration was 736 ppb. FUM occurred in 77% of all samples, and ZEN occurred in 72% of all samples. The total risk level in South Africa alone (67%) was higher than that of the entire continent (65%). 


The analysis of the 18,424 samples in this survey once again underscores that the continuous monitoring and measuring of mycotoxins in grains and feed is important. Only with reliable data on mycotoxin contamination can professionals in the feed industries mount a defense in the form of an effective mycotoxin risk management program and, in so doing, protect animals from the negative impacts of mycotoxins on their health and performance.

This article was published in Spot On Special Issue: Mycotoxins

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