Mycotoxin testing is one of the most prevalent necessities for stakeholders in the grain, grain processing, and grain-based food and feed industry. Because these toxic compounds can grow on numerous food ingredients, either before or after harvest and during storage, there are countless opportunities for mycotoxin contamination throughout the food growing and production stages. In fact, studies show that more than 68% of grains test positive for molds, which can create serious health issues for both humans and animals. Because of the dangers of mycotoxin contamination, it is imperative that stakeholders have highly sensitive testing systems for accurate analysis of mycotoxins at all phases.
When stakeholders are testing a small number of commodities for only a few mycotoxins and contamination incidence is low, they can easily turn to lateral flow test strips for testing needs. Lateral flow test strips are relatively inexpensive, simple to use, and accurate for testing at required levels. However, when mycotoxin incidence is high or when a user needs to test multiple types of commodities for many different mycotoxins— perhaps even in complex matrices such as finished feeds or pet foods— scaling up lateral flow testing may not be the best option. Instead, stakeholders should consider automated, high-throughput ELISA testing for fast, accurate, and cost-effective results.
So, how do you know when to make the move to ELISA testing?
When You’re a Large Grain Processing Plant with Years of Outbreaks
Large grain processing plants may be more likely to come across mycotoxin outbreaks due to the sheer amount of grain they’re testing on a daily basis. When you’re dealing with large volumes of contamination, speed and accuracy are an absolute necessity. Finding testing solutions that enable you to automate as many steps as possible can cut down on human error and free up time for testing professionals to work on additional tasks.
During years of high mycotoxin levels, testing requirements ramp up quickly and dramatically. These automated and simplified solutions help large processors meet their increasing needs while providing the flexibility to scale up or down as the demand fluctuates.
When You’re a Corporate Lab That Serves as a Hub for Testing
Corporate or regional labs that support mycotoxin testing for multiple plants face specific challenges. If the plants are in different regions, even the same commodity may require testing for different mycotoxins. The lab may support different types of traders or processors as well, so the base-matrix may vary. The new automated ELISA solutions provide the flexibility to address each incoming sample separately and distinctly, be it corn for aflatoxin or wheat for deoxynivalenol.
When You’re a Corporate Lab That Tests Complex Matrices
Testing complex matrices, such as pet foods, compound feeds, or other finished products, comes with its own set of challenges. Mycotoxins can be found in items such as cereals, animal feed, or pet food, but the addition of spices or an unknown composition (as in the case of animal feed) can make analysis extremely challenging. Previously, testing options for complex matrices were extremely limited or required certain sacrifices around convenience or speed, but technology is ever changing, and testing technology developers are continuing to develop new, automated options for these types of challenges.
Some new testing options on the market enable labs to test for specific mycotoxins within these complex matrices—some by using just a single sample, which can greatly increase testing throughput and save time. Hands-free sample dilution and distribution can help corporate labs reduce cross-contamination, and valuable integrations with software solutions can optimize result recording and analysis.
When You’re a Contract Lab with Samples That Change Day to Day
As a contract lab, the samples you’re testing can change daily. You may be asked to test grains or grain-based ingredients for a single mycotoxin or multiple mycotoxins, you may need to run tests on complex matrices, or you may deal with large disparities in testing volume. Because requests may change in an instant, contract labs need versatile testing options that can handle a variety of needs.
ELISA testing is comparable to other testing methods, but it comes with a few key advantages. It’s high precision, and handling the tests is simple and requires less training than other options. ELISA testing also has strong standardization potential, meaning that testers can cut down on the number of steps to get to results. One of the most important advantages of ELISA testing is the ability to obtain quick and accurate results, which are amplified when using high throughput options for large quantities of samples.
The Bottom Line
Technology around mycotoxin testing is always evolving, so it’s imperative to stay up to date on the latest options that best suit your needs. For those with special use circumstances or specific needs, finding a service provider that can explain all the best options can make a world of difference. Make sure you’re considering all possible options, and look for solutions that can make your testing processes even easier. Making the leap to a new system may not only save you time and money, but may also improve the health and well-being of consumers and livestock around the world.
Shadow is food market manager-grain at PerkinElmer. Reach him at [email protected]