Aflatoxin Regulations


Aflatoxin in feed is regulated by various government agencies.  In the USA, it is regulated by USDA, (United States Department of Agriculture), and also by agencies within each State.  For example, in Texas, aflatoxin is regulated by the Office of the Texas State Chemist.

Aflatoxin in food products is usually regulated by different government agencies.   For example, in the USA, it is regulated by the FDA, (Food and Drug Administration), and at the State level, by the various State Departments of Health.

Keeping in mind that regulations vary with location, and may be subject to change at any time, here are some general guidelines that currently apply in Texas, and presumably in most of the USA, though not necessarily in other parts of the world.  The following information is believed to be accurate, however, as always, it is a good idea to check with the proper regulatory authority if there are any questions about the current regulations.  The home page for the web site of the Office of the Texas State Chemist, for example, can be found at http://otscweb.tamu.edu.

In general, prior to September 1, 1999, if the printed information on a bag, or a tag on a bag, did not state otherwise, it was presumed that the aflatoxin content did not exceed 20 ppb, (parts per billion).  In other words, if aflatoxin was not even mentioned on the bag or an attached tag, then the aflatoxin content of the product in the bag could not legally exceed 20 ppb.  If, for whatever reason, it was mislabeled, and the aflatoxin content did indeed exceed 20 ppb, then the guarantor, (usually the company name that appears on the bag, or an attached tag), was in violation of the law, and subject to prescribed penalties.

Beginning on September 1, 1999, new regulations based on amendments to the Texas Commercial Feed Control Act, passed by the 76th Texas Legislature, require that whole seed or whole grain offered for retail sale for wildlife feed must display a label which states certain information on the level of aflatoxin and the % protein, % fat, and % fiber.  Under the new regulations, whole seed or whole grain offered for retail sale for wildlife feed, will fall under the classification of commercial feed, which implies that production of such feed will now require licensing by the Office of the Texas State Chemist.  Prior to September 1, 1999, such feed was exempt, so long as the aflotoxin content did not exceed 20 ppb.

In the USA, at least, products that do not contain aflatoxin in excess of 20 ppb can be used for any normal intended purpose, including, but not limited to, human consumption, feed for dairy cattle, and export.  It is reported that regulatory agencies in some parts of the world impose a 10 ppb limit as the allowable threshold for the same, or similar, consumptive purposes.

Regulations may vary by state, but in Texas, at least, feed that does not contain aflatoxin in excess of 50 ppb may be fed to deer, and other wildlife.

Feed that does not contain aflatoxin in excess of 100 ppb may be fed to breeding cattle, breeding swine, sheep, goats, and mature poultry.

Feed that does not contain aflatoxin in excess of 200 ppb may be used to finish swine, (body weight over 100 lbs., or 45 Kg).

Feed that does not contain aflatoxin in excess of 300 ppb may be fed to feedlot cattle, (cattle destined for slaughter).

Feed that contains over 300 ppb aflatoxin cannot be legally used for feed, and should be properly disposed of.  Though regulations probably vary on allowable, or recommended methods of disposal in some locations, in most parts of the USA, grain or seed contaminated with excessive amounts of aflatoxin may be scattered on  the land on which it was produced, and plowed in.

There are a couple of exceptions to the 300 ppb limit.  One of them allows the blending of whole, unprocessed grain or seed that contains aflatoxin not in excess of 500 ppb with similar grain, or seed, that contains no less than 20 ppb aflatoxin, to create a blended product that contains no more than 200 ppb aflatoxin.   The resulting blend can be fed only to feedlot cattle.  This blending process is legal, for example, in Texas, but may not be legal in other locations.

Another exception allows the original producer of the contaminated grain, or seed, to feed it to his or her own livestock.

Subjecting grain or seed that is contaminated with aflatoxin to a treatment using anhydrous ammonia in a sealed vessel, so that sufficient pressure, under controlled temperature conditions, can be maintained for a period of time sufficient to allow the completion of certain chemical reactions, will result in a product in which the aflatoxin content has been greatly reduced.  In addition, the protein content of the product will be enhanced by the chemical reaction.

In some states, including Texas, corn or cottonseed containing no more that 1000 ppb aflatoxin can be legally ammoniated to yield a final product that does not contain more that 200 ppb aflatoxin.  The resulting product can only be fed to feedlot cattle.   The ammoniation treatment must be done under prescribed conditions, details of which can be obtained from state regulatory authorities in states where the process is legal.

Most breeders of seed for grain or other commodities that are susceptible to aflatoxin are working diligently in an effort to "breed-out" the vulnerability to aflatoxin from their seed stock.  Hopefully, in a few more  years, aflatoxin will be only a bitter memory.  It should be noted, though, that even though this goal has been sought for a decade or two now, the seed industry does not appear to offer any cultivars which have successfully addressed this issue. 


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