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Agrarian Solutions - Mycotoxin Testing

By: Dr. John Doerr, Ph.D., PAS, Dpl. ACAP 

When you need to verify a mycotoxin challenge, your first thought is to find a good commercial lab with reasonable pricing and methodology you can place some trust in.  Sounds easy, but many times it’s that last item that raises concerns.  In today’s market you will find HPLC, gas chromatography, ELISA, LC-MS/MS, etc.  Which should you choose?  Some get so unnerved by the choices, they opt to just do a simple mold/yeast count and forget about what toxins or toxin amounts are actually at work.  You can do better than that.  My time (space) is limited, so let me just highlight two of the popular methods, ELISA and LC-MS/MS.

ELISA is a phenomenal methodology, and today the companies making test kits for labs have some of the best monoclonal antibodies available upon which to construct this test.  I’m very happy to see ELISA-based test results.  But, yes, there are a couple of negatives.  First, the antibody is very likely to show some cross reactivity with closely related forms of the toxin being tested.  Take, for example, aflatoxins B1 and B2.  The former is disaster for farm animals; the latter, very much less toxic and unlikely to be a major source of issue.  If the two are in a feed sample in about the same amounts and the ELISA antibody cross reacts with B2 about 30%, then the final value reported may be elevated by that amount.  For dairy, there can be a big difference between 15 ppb and 20 ppb, especially as to what may show up in the milk!  Also, one ELISA can do only one toxin.  Costs then rise when several toxin assays are needed.

Agrarian is using that “liquid chromatography tandem mass spectroscopy”.  Mass spectroscopy is a very precise and accurate way of determining molecules such as mycotoxins.  And many toxins can be detected in a single run; this means the net cost per toxin is vastly reduced.  Twenty years ago, the equipment required made this technology prohibitively expensive, but today we enjoy a relatively low-cost but state-of-the-art technology well within reach for farm sample testing.  A sample chromatogram is shown below.

Agrarian Solutions - Mycotoxin Testing Services

• No cost to clients and prospective clients
• Covers 17 mycotoxins and metabolites in a single run. 
• For areas with high risk, 5 ergot alkaloids may also be tested in a separate run.  
• Each year we add toxins to our test run as we see needs arising in the dairy industry.
• Fast service, with typical turn-around times of 10-11 days.  
• The lab?  ActLabs  performs these analyses for us.  They hold numerous laboratory accreditations which are detailed on the output reports.  

We’re delighted with this technology and the versatility it offers, but keep in mind older methods are often just as good; you just have to be savvy in interpreting the results on a report.  For more information, contact us at (888) 254-1482 or

[1] Activation Laboratories Ltd., 41 Bittern Street, Ancaster, Ontario, L9G 4V5