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Serbia ramps up aflatoxin testing

In an incident that could manifest itself as yet another factor in an ever-tightening world corn supply situation, the government of Serbia confirmed last weekend that aflatoxin has been discovered in the nation's corn supply, and it's interrupted the nation's corn shipments beyond its borders prompting officials to step up testing for the disease.

Thus far, officials say none of the infected corn has entered shipping channels or been used domestically as either food or livestock feed, and that the steps being taken now are out of "self-control" to ensure the nation won't lose marketshare because of the disease.

"The Ministry of Agriculture informs the public that the relevant border phytosanitary inspectors control all shipments of corn from abroad for the presence of mycotoxins, and this year was no aflatoxin contaminated shipments," according to a translated statement from the Serbian Ministry of Agriculture. "The regulations require that every entity in the business of food must establish a system of self-control in the presence of certain parameters, including aflatoxin."

Ministry officials blame this year's drought conditions -- similar to those that caused aflatoxin to flare up in parts of the U.S. Corn Belt this year -- for the prevalence of the toxin in the nation's corn crop. Previous private estimates show Serbia's corn output was cut by almost half -- to just over 3.5 million metric tons -- this year on account of the dry weather, reports show. But, government officials aren't as quick to write off that much of the crop, especially in light of the aflatoxin situation now. And the corn that is in the nation is safe despite earlier reports that officials say are "sensational."

"We emphasize that the basis of the food safety responsibility for the security of corn produced in Serbia, primarily to producers," a translated version of a government statement says. "The Ministry urges media to unsubstantiated and baseless statements of facts which lead to public concern and significant threat to the economic interests of Serbia as a large exporter of corn not placed in a sensational way."

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