Niki McMaster and Nina Wilson attend mycotoxin workshop in Italy

The U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative supported two Virginia Tech scientists, Niki McMaster and Nina Wilson, to attend a training course in Italy focused on detection techniques for mycotoxins in food and feed.

Niki McMaster is a research associate in David Schmale’s lab and Nina Wilson is a Ph.D. student in Schmale’s and Ryan Senger’s labs. The workshop was held Oct. 6-10, 2014, and was hosted by the Institute of Sciences of Food Production of the National Research Council of Italy, and the International Society for Mycotoxicology in Bari, Italy.

McMaster and Wilson attended lectures and participated in hands-on laboratory training for cutting-edge technologies for mycotoxin detection and quantification. Participants and instructors at the workshop included people from Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. The group was comprised of students and researchers from academia along with government regulatory agencies and extension officers.

Research at organizations is mainly focused on developing new methodologies for the detection of mycotoxins, toxigenic fungi, microbial pathogens and allergens in food and feed. The International Society for Mycotoxicology is focused on promoting research on mycotoxins and toxigenic fungi leading to reduced exposure to mycotoxins, enhanced food safety, and an increased public awareness of mycotoxins and toxigenic fungi.

Italy workshop

During the workshop, a number of key points were discussed in order to mitigate mycotoxin contamination in food. These included:

  • Good agricultural practices such as planting, preharvest, harvest, and transport;
  • Good manufacturing practices such as sorting, milling, and processing;
  • Good storage practices such as correct silo operation, and the control of temperature, moisture, and insects; and
  • Good hygienic practices such as washing hands and wearing protective clothing.

Sampling methods were discussed to address challenges with hot spots in bulk samples and to ensure that subsamples are representative of the larger lots. Detoxification strategies were discussed, including microbial degradation, specific antibody neutralization, chemical detoxification, and physical removal using screens, thermal treatments, and adsorbent materials. The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point system was emphasized to identify, evaluate, and control food safety hazards. Methods validation was considered, including the development and testing of universal methods with collaborators and testing labs around the world.

McMaster and Wilson participated in the following activities:

  • The determination of deoxynivalenol in wheat by HPLC and immunoaffinity column clean-up;
  • The determination of aflatoxins B1, B2, G1, and G2 in almonds by HPLC with post-column derivatization and immunoaffinity column clean-up;
  • The simultaneous determination of aflatoxins, ochratoxin A, and trichothecene toxins in maize by LC-MS/MS after multitoxin immunoaffinity clean-up;
  • The detection of deoxynivalenol in wheat by fast-ELISA; and
  • Use of rapid strip tests for total aflatoxins in maize.

Based on the group analysis of naturally contaminated and control spiked samples, HPLC and LC-MS/MS methods were found to be highly accurate, although expensive and time-consuming. Comparatively, ELISA and lateral flow methods had greater deviation but are relatively inexpensive and rapid.

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