Grain users test for corn toxin as drought spurs mold riskCHICAGO — Grain elevators and milk processors are testing for a corn toxin that can be fatal to livestock and cause cancer in humans after the worst Midwest drought in 56 years spurred an increased risk of contamination.
By: JEFF WILSON, Bloomberg News
CHICAGO — Grain elevators and milk processors are testing for a corn toxin that can be fatal to livestock and cause cancer in humans after the worst Midwest drought in 56 years spurred an increased risk of contamination.
Iowa, the largest U.S. corn producer, has ordered milk processors including Dallas-based Dean Foods Co. to screen for the toxin in raw milk received at state processing plants beginning Friday. Many grain companies are testing every load farmers deliver for the fungal disease that produces aflatoxin, according to Chip Flory, the editor of the Professional Farmers of America agribusiness newsletter in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Aflatoxins, chemicals produced by mold fungi, are considered carcinogenic to animals and humans, according to Iowa State University. Conditions are prime for the fungus to produce toxin during warm August nights in a period of drought, according to a document on the University’s website. Corn prices climbed to a record this month as hot, dry weather scorched fields. “The markets are worried about the problem, but we just don’t know how widespread or concentrated the mold is in the Midwest,” Flory said. “We need to get more of the crop harvested” before being able to assess the scope of the contamination, he said.
Flory, who toured fields in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota last week, said he saw evidence of the mold in about 13 percent of the samples he took from more than 60 fields. Testing grain is a challenge because the mold can appear in highly variable levels within a field, and the presence of mold does not necessarily lead to aflatoxin, Flory said.
The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t allow corn containing aflatoxin in concentrations of greater than 20 parts per billion for human consumption or for use in feed for dairy animals or for immature livestock of other species.