Detecting hidden threats to feed safety

New emerging mycotoxins, lack regulation but their presence in feedstuffs is rising. Masked mycotoxins evade conventional detection. Their impacts on feed and food safety are becoming more understood.

Fungi are ubiquitous and mycotoxins occur in agricultural commodities all over the world depending on species and quantity, they can have a severe impact on feed ingredients. Fungal growth and the ability to produce mycotoxins are greatly influenced by a variety of factors related to the fungal species, the crop, as well as climatic, environmental, and agrotechnical factors. Furthermore, mold e.g. Fusarium species differ in the spectrum of toxins produced, with different toxigenic potentials existing within one species alone. Based on these facts, it is widely accepted that naturally contaminated feed on the field could contain many different mycotoxins.

While over 1000 fungi-born toxins and metabolites exist, only a handful have legal or recommended maximum levels in most jurisdictions. The term “emerging mycotoxins” is not clearly defined. One of the first papers to use this term, published in 2008, dealt with just a few categories of Fusarium metabolites: fusaproliferin (FP), beauvericin (BEA), enniatins (ENNs), and moniliformin (MON). More recently, emerging mycotoxins were defined as “mycotoxins, which are neither routinely determined nor legislatively regulated; however, the evidence of their incidence is rapidly increasing”. According to this definition, many more fungal metabolites with known, or at least suspected, toxicity would fall in the category of emerging mycotoxins.

Emerging mycotoxins’ impact

New research on the most common emerging mycotoxins in food and feed, indicates that they can make animals more susceptible to disease. A study on the effect of Fusarium-derived metabolites on barrier integrity looked at the toxicological profile of Fusarium-derived metabolites, such as enniatins, beauvericin, apicidin, and aurofusarin. Their effects on the intestinal barrier function of differentiated intestinal porcine epithelial cells (IPEC-J2) were measured over 72h. Transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER), an indicator of gut barrier integrity, was measured at 24h intervals, followed by evaluation of cell viability using neutral red (NR) assay. Enniatins A, A1, B, and B1, apicidin, aurofusarin, and beauvericin significantly reduced TEER (Figure 1).

Masked mycotoxins risk management

Masked mycotoxins occur naturally in plants or during processing are and are not immediately detectable by routine analytical methods used for mycotoxin testing. Masked mycotoxins are typically created when mycotoxins bind with plant components or other molecules. When the fungus infects the plant it produces mycotoxins, for example, deoxynivalenol (DON). The defense mechanism of the plant to counteract the toxic effects of this substance is to conjugate a sugar molecule to the mycotoxin, resulting in a new form called a “masked mycotoxin” e.g. DON-3- glucoside, which is no longer toxic for the plant. However, when these masked mycotoxins are ingested or undergo certain conditions, they can be released and become active toxins again. DON-3-glucoside, found in wheat, maize, barley and malt, is a masked form of deoxynivalenol associated with feed refusal and immune suppression.

The robust R&D program of dsm-firmenich helps to provide the animal protein industry with continuous innovations in the field of mycotoxin risk management, such as the LC-MS/MS-based Spectrum Top 50 program that can detect those masked and emerging mycotoxins in raw commodities and finished feed. Looking at the data for corn from 2020-2023, 56% out of 2516 samples tested positive for DON-3-glucoside, at an average level of 137 ppb (Figure 2). It is important to check the feed and food on masked and emerging mycotoxins to get a more comprehensive picture of the toxic load that can impair animal health and performance. Advanced detection methodologies such as LCMS/MS are useful tools to inform our scientific understanding of mycotoxin research and risk management.


  • Springler, Alexandra, et al. "Effect of Fusarium-derived metabolites on the barrier integrity of differentiated intestinal porcine epithelial cells (IPEC-J2)." Toxins 8.11 (2016): 345.
  • Schollenberger, Margit, et al. "Natural occurrence of 16 Fusarium toxins in grains and feedstuffs of plant origin from Germany." Mycopathologia 161 (2006): 43-52.
  • Vaclavikova, Marta, et al. "Emerging’mycotoxins in cereals processing chains: Changes of enniatins during beer and bread making." Food Chemistry 136.2 (2013): 750-757.
  • Gruber-Dorninger, Christiane, et al. "Emerging mycotoxins: Beyond traditionally determined food contaminants." Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 65.33 (2017): 7052-7070.

Published on

19 October 2023


  • Mycotoxins

About the Author

Ines Taschl - Product Manager Mycotoxin Risk Management, Animal Nutrition & Health at dsm-firmenich

Ines has a master's degree from the University of Natural Resources and Livestock Sciences in Vienna with a main focus on animal nutrition and husbandry. She joined dsm-firmenich in 2015 as responsible for managing and coordinating feeding trials, and since 2017 she has been part of the Mycotoxin Risk Management Team as Product Manager.


You are being redirected.

We detected that you are visitng this page from United States. Therefore we are redirecting you to the localized version.