The Increasing Threat from Mycotoxins to Global Food Security

Food security has been defined as the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. The need not only to maintain the current level of food production but also to greatly increase it to cope with the growing global population is a substantial challenge. The need to have more efficient food production systems in place is an absolute requirement as the amount of land mass available to produce food is in fact decreasing due to issues of growing urbanization and severe climate change.

The role that fungal disease of crops which can result in mycotoxin contamination of animal feed materials plays in reducing the health and general performance of livestock has been studied for a considerable period. This has helped develop a number of important mitigation strategies. However, this work has very much focused on a small group of mycotoxins and as analytical techniques have improved greatly over recent years the true scale of the challenge is just starting to emerge.

The presentation will review the current knowledge of the adverse effects of mycotoxins on both animal and human health. These data are however generally limited to exposure to a single mycotoxin. As the climate changes, as feed materials are being sourced from different parts of the world and novel sources of feed materials are being used, the risk to exposure from many toxins simultaneously is now greater than ever before. Thus the presentation will give examples of some indicators that animal health and performance are being compromised by low level exposure to multiple mycotoxins and point in the direction that research must take to develop better ways of dealing with this serious issue.