Aflatoxin In Corn

Many parts of the Corn Belt experienced hot, humid, and droughty weather this growing season. Farmers in these areas should have been scouting for a fungus called Aspergillus ear rot. Some of the strains can develop a toxic carcinogen called aflatoxin. 

Doug Jardine is an extension plant pathologist at Kansas State University. He says elevators can quickly test a load of corn. If they reject it, you should do one of two things: Go to the back of the line and have them test it again, or go to a different elevator. You’ll want a second opinion.

"Just by random chance they may put it in a hot spot in the load, and that may be the only place in that whole load where there’s some aflatoxin-containing kernels and so it’ll give them a positive test at a level that they’re not willing to accept," says Jardine. "You go around and you come back through, chances are that probe is going to go into a different part of the load. And that part of the load may have no aflatoxin in it because typically, it’s not uniformly infected across the whole field."

Jardine says samples of corn that test less than 100 ppb are usually accepted without penalty. Levels over 100 pbb may be docked a percentage or not accepted at all. However, it may also depend on what the grain will be used for.

"The FDA has established 20 ppb as a level safe for human consumption," he says. "Now, I will tell you, that most of your food manufacturers, your Frito Lays who are making taco chips or your pet foods that use corn in their diet, they won’t accept anything over 2 ppb."

Aflatoxin concentrations at 100-200 ppb can be diverted into feed for beef cattle. They can consume the grain without harmful health effects.

Learn more about aflatoxin in corn and what to look for

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