A PREVENTIVE APPROACH BASED ON HACCP PRINCIPLES

* HACCP: Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points

It is advisable to adopt a preventive approach based on the HACCP principles to try to determine the Critical Control Points as a management tool to reduce mycotoxins.

Most mycotoxins are chemically stable and tend to persist during the storage and processing of animal feed, even when these animal feeds are subjected to high temperatures. This fact makes it even more important to reinforce as much as possible the efforts to avoid the conditions that favor the formation of mycotoxins.

Due to the persistence of mycotoxins throughout the food chain, many current investigations are focused on prevention as an element for their mitigation. In this sense, it is necessary to develop strategies based on the application of certain preventive and control measures throughout the entire cereal chain.

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The most effective approach to control the contamination of cereal products by mycotoxins consists in the integral application of a HACCP system in the whole cereal chain, so that preventive measures could be addressed and introduced in all those phases of the chain where it is known that contamination is more likely to occur or that existing contamination will increase to unacceptable levels.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs have been shown to be effective in dealing with the risks associated with the possible contamination of food products by mycotoxins. For the correct application of this type of program, it is very important to have information on the factors that cause product contamination in order to establish appropriate measures, both preventive and control.

HOW FOOD HACCP IS APPLIED TO CONTROL MYCOTOXINS

The first thing to keep in mind is that the Food HACCP must be accompanied by important production management tools. Among them:

  • Strategies of Good Manufacturing Practices
  • Good Farming Practices
  • Good Hygiene Practices
  • Good Storage Practices

When this structure is organized, a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points team can be formed to study the use or final destination of the product. You can also consider a process flow diagram to achieve a verified product.

With these sources it will be possible to complete the analysis of risks and dangers.

Identification and analysis of contamination hazards with mycotoxins

The first step for the HACCP team is to examine what kind of mycotoxins are a hazard to the food being produced; in fact, over 400 different types of mycotoxins have been identified.

However, the success of the system lies in being able to identify which of them are the ones that represent a significant danger to foods or animal feed.

Among the most dangerous toxins and on which there are regulatory limits in several countries are:

  • Aflatoxins, including aflatoxin M1
  • Ochratoxin A
  • Zearalenone
  • Trichothecenes, including deoxynivalenol
  • Fumonisins

Regulatory limits refer to the levels that are expected to be included in the product description box. However, the client and his or her team can define limits for mycotoxins, even of those that do not have regulatory limits.

Contamination risk estimation

The risk of a mycotoxin contamination hazard is determined based on proven data on the relative sensitivity of products to certain mycotoxins, as well as climatic conditions that favor mycotoxin production.

According to the European Union, these raw materials of animal feed are very likely to be contaminated with some type of mycotoxin:

  • Corn
  • Distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS)
  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rice
  • Soy
  • Soybean meal

However, climatic factors also play a role. For example, corn grown in temperate climates tends to be less prone to aflatoxin contamination, but can be contaminated with a variety of other mycotoxins such as trichothecenes or fumonisin B1.

Identification of production phases where contamination is likely

Once the hazards and risks have been identified, each production phase is studied to assess where contamination with mycotoxins may be more viable.

The ideal is to rely on studies already carried out that serve as an evaluation pattern for each production phase or entrust the study to a specialist company such as BIŌNTE to carry out or confirm whether the identification of the phases with the highest risk is correct.

Climatic and time aspects must be taken into account in this evaluation, and it is vital to be able to identify if mycotoxin contamination is more likely to occur before or after harvest or, in the case of certain products, if there may be a risk in all phases of production (even in the packaging).