dsm-firmenich Mycotoxin Survey Results: Current Risk to Aquaculture Profitability and Performance

In Brief

  • The results of the 2022 dsm-firmenich Mycotoxin Survey which tested over 27,000 samples from 87 countries around the world are in.
  • 97% of the aquafeed samples tested contained one or more mycotoxins, posing an increased risk to aquaculture species.


Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by molds when they infect and damage plant crops. They impact the health and performance of aquaculture species in terms of productivity, efficiency and profitability. Mycotoxins can be produced in the field, pre-harvest or during storage, and several factors influence their prevalence. Contamination can only be detected by carrying out laboratory analysis on raw materials. But once identified, mycotoxin contamination can be managed using mycotoxin deactivators.

Each year, dsm-firmenich conducts a global mycotoxin survey to understand and monitor contamination levels in feed ingredients. In 2022, over 27,000 samples were collected and analyzed from 87 different countries. While overall, contamination levels remained stable, there was variation between regions.

Different aquaculture species have different tolerance levels to mycotoxins, so the risk posed by contamination by different mycotoxins will cause varying effects depending on the target species. It is therefore important that producers are aware of mycotoxin contamination and take the necessary control steps before feeding raw materials.   

More information about mycotoxins and the threat they pose to aquaculture production can be found here.

Mycotoxin contamination of aquafeed commodities

Table 1 illustrates the global results of the 2022 dsm-firmenich Mycotoxin Survey for commonly used plant-based ingredients in aqua feed. Fusarium mycotoxins are frequently observed in corn and showed elevated average concentrations and extreme maximum levels. It should be noted that corn-based byproducts such as corn gluten meal and DDGS present a greater risk, as mycotoxins tend to accumulate.

Aflatoxin (Afla) was found in every second rice bran sample, and in more than every third cottonseed sample with exceptionally high average contamination levels of 28 and 97 ppb, respectively. These commodities also showed the highest prevalence of Ochratoxin A (OTA). Rapeseed meal, cassava and sunflower cake samples showed a lower contamination profile, with the exception of deoxynivalenol (DON) in sunflower cake (1,101 ppb).

Source: dsm-firmenich Mycotoxin Survey 2022.

Co-contamination and synergistic effects

Figure 1 illustrates the high co-contamination rates found in the common plant-based ingredients listed in Table 1. The highest co-occurrence of mycotoxins can be seen in corn-based commodities. 99% of all corn gluten samples analyzed (for at least three mycotoxins) contained more than one mycotoxin.

Figure 1. Co-contamination in a selection of plant-based ingredients collected worldwide from January to December 2022. All samples were analyzed for at least three mycotoxins.

Source: dsm-firmenich Mycotoxin Survey 2022.

Exposure to multiple mycotoxins simultaneously presents a greater risk to the animal due to synergistic effects, whereby the contamination of more than one mycotoxin is worse than the individual mycotoxins combined (the additive effect). Fumonisin (FUM) was observed to produce synergistic effects with Afla in trout, and the combined effects of Afla and T-2 were studied in Gambusia affinis. Additionally, the effects of Afla and DON were studied in carp (Cyprinius carpio) where it was shown that the negative effects of the two mycotoxins taken together were greater than their effects individually (Carlson et al., 2001, McKean et al., 2006, He et al., 2010).

Finished aquafeed – are aquatic species at risk?

In 2022, 79 finished aquafeed samples were analyzed for mycotoxin contamination with the advanced LC-MS/MS based multi-mycotoxin method Spectrum Top® 50. Again, co-occurrence of multiple mycotoxins was the norm and not the exception (Figure 2). Incredibly, 97% of the aquafeed samples tested positive for at least one mycotoxin, with just 3% below the limit of detection. Most of the positive samples contained more than three mycotoxins, with 42% containing between five and nine metabolites.

Figure 2. Co-contamination of the 79 global finished aquafeed samples analyzed with Spectrum Top® 50

Source: dsm-firmenich Mycotoxin Survey 2022.

Figure 3. Mycotoxin prevalence in finished aquafeed samples analyzed with Spectrum Top® 50. Prevalence, average of positives (ppb) and maximum (ppb) are shown. Regulated mycotoxins are indicated in orange; masked mycotoxins in red; ergot alkaloids in yellow.

Source: dsm-firmenich Mycotoxin Survey 2022.

Zearalenone (ZEN) was most frequently found in aquafeed samples (63%), followed by DON and FUM (62% and 58%, respectively; Figure 3). OTA and Afla were reported in 44 and 43% of samples, respectively, with Afla showing a high average concentration (22 ppb), indicating a great risk to aquaculture. Interestingly, emerging mycotoxins Enniatin B1, Enniatin B and Alternariol were also relatively common.


Mycotoxins found in raw materials fed to aqua species can negatively impact their performance due to immune suppression or reducing the integrity of the gut barrier. The 2022 dsm-firmenich Mycotoxin Survey results give producers a broad overview of global mycotoxin contamination levels, underlining the importance for regular analysis of ingredients and implementation of a proper mycotoxin risk management, to proactively prevent drops in animal performance. Usage of a mycotoxin deactivator as insurance, will ensure optimized feed quality and reduced risk. Mycofix® is the state-of the art solution to combat negative effects of mycotoxins based on the three strategies: adsorption, biotransformation and bioprotection.


Carlson, D.B., Williams, D., Spitsbergen, J., Frank Ross, P., Bacon, C.W., Meredith, F.I. and Riley, R.T. (2001). Fumonisin B1 Promotes Aflatoxin B1 and N-Methyl-N′-nitronitrosoguanidine-Initiated Liver Tumors in Rainbow Trout. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 172(1):29–36.

McKean, C., Tang, L., Billam, M., Tang, M., Theodorakis, C.W., Kendall, R.J. and Wang, J.-S. (2006). Comparative acute and combinative toxicity of aflatoxin B1 and T-2 toxin in animals and immortalized human cell lines. Journal of Applied Toxicology 26:139–147.

He, C.-H., Fan, Y.-H., Wang, Y., Huang, C.-Y., Wang, X.-C. and Zhang, H.-B. (2010). The individual and combined effects of deoxynivalenol and Aflatoxin B1 on primary hepatocytes of Cyprinus carpio. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 11(10):3760–3768.

Published on

04 May 2023


  • Aquaculture
  • Mycotoxins
  • Mycotoxin Survey

About the Authors

Anneliese Müller - Product Manager Mycotoxin Risk Management, Animal Nutrition & Health at dsm-firmenich

Anneliese Müller is a Global Product Manager for Mycotoxin Risk Management. She studied biology at the University of Vienna and did her PhD in survival mechanisms of foodborne pathogens  at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. She is regularly working with and publishing the results of the global dsm-firmenich Mycotoxin Survey.

Benedict Standen,  Head of Aqua Marketing Global, Animal Nutrition & Health at dsm-firmenich

Benedict Standen is the Head of Aqua Marketing Global at dsm-firmenich Animal Nutrition & Health. He received his PhD from Plymouth University, where his research focus was feed additives in aquaculture.


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