Bühler meets the aflatoxin challenge06/18/2013 Cereal crops exposed to extremes of heat and drought before harvesting, or high temperatures and humidity afterwards, are prone to contamination by the carcinogenic mycotoxin, aflatoxin B, which can cause kidney and liver damage and suppress the immune system in humans and animals. In Europe, two-thirds of the Serbian 2012 corn crop was reported to be affected. Milk in the Netherlands was identified as infected and in Germany it was found that at thousands of farms in Lower Saxony, animals were fed contaminated feed with, it was thought, up to 30 times an acceptable level of the toxin.
Clearly, the presence of aflatoxin contaminated corn in the supply chain jeopardises public health and product safety. It also threatens commercial relationships and the reputation of businesses throughout the chain. In response, many countries are actively improving quality control in cattle feed and milk, to reduce aflatoxin levels in products derived from infected corn. Feed buyers are seeking alternative, ‘clean’ supplies to reduce risk.
While few consumer safety issues have yet arisen, much of the 2012 harvest will not reach the end of the supply chain. As Stephen Jacobs, Bühler’s product manager for optical grain sorting, observes, “Many tonnes of corn probably remain in store and are likely, at best, to fetch only a minimum price.”
There are, adds Jacobs, grounds for optimism, as Bühler can offer an effective solution. Measurements taken from recent installations have shown that it is possible to reduce aflatoxin levels in corn to well within commercially acceptable limits – and to do it consistently. “We have developed a cleaning line for reducing aflatoxin in maize, which includes classifiers, aspiration, gravity separation and optical sorting. The specific combination of equipment in the line can be tailored to individual requirements taking into account the condition of the material being processed and the acceptable levels in the final product. Bühler has developed a new sorter based on its successful SORTEX A series, which is coping successfully with problems in Italy, where several units have been installed. Their high capacity and stable operation make them particularly suitable for this application.”
As climate change threatens to present the conditions that favour the development of aflatoxin, the type of solution launched by Bühler deserves analysis by all who fear aflatoxin contamination – and who are concerned about optimising future corn supplies.