Petfood at increased aflatoxin risk from US drought
Protect against contamination by establishing an alert system, mycotoxin-specific sampling protocols and rigorous analytical methods
The summer of 2012 will be remembered as one of the driest and hottest summers in history. The ensuing drought was particularly devastating to the corn-growing regions of the US. (See a map, updated weekly, at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu.) Apart from the loss in yields, the hot and dry conditions also favor the highly complex interaction between corn and the molds Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus. These molds produce aflatoxin—one of the most potent and problematic mycotoxins for pets—in the field during harvest and during storage.
Mycotoxins, including aflatoxin, typically arise as a result of an environmental stress that facilitates mold infestation. For the aflatoxin-producing molds, the most significant influence is damage to the seed coat (pericarp) brought on by extreme drought and heat. With this year’s US corn crop experiencing one of the worst droughts on record, early reports seem to be confirming the presence of high levels of aflatoxin in the crop.
Even setting aside this drought, the number of aflatoxin-related recalls and outbreaks has been increasing in recent years. Aflatoxin is a potent liver toxin, and because of its carcinogenic properties, chronic exposure can lead to tumor formation. Clinical signs in dogs and cats include lethargy, anorexia and jaundice.
While outbreaks in…