Mycotoxins are substances produced by fungi that infect grain crops like maize and small grains and cause ear and kernel rots. Exposure to mycotoxins can lead to chronic or acute toxicity in humans and animals. In addition, mycotoxins can lead to market losses, discounts, rejection of grain lots at elevators, and a reduction in livestock efficiency and productivity.
The most economically important mycotoxins include aflatoxins (AF), deoxynivalenol (DON, also known as vomitoxin), fumonisins (FUM), zearalenone (ZEA), ochratoxin A (OTA), T2, HT-2, ergot alkaloids, and patulin (PAT). The fungal species that produce mycotoxins have worldwide distribution; therefore, mycotoxin contamination occurs everywhere grain crops are grown. Accordingly, mycotoxins have been detected in feed, silage, food, and beverages derived from cereal grains and animal products exposed to contaminated feed.