November 09, 2015

09/11/2015: The Interview: Dr Béatrice Conde-Petit

First published in Milling and Grain, July 2015

Food Safety Officer, Dr Béatrice Conde-Petit is an expert in food science and technology and also holds the position of scientific head of Bühler’s Analytical Services. She joined Bühler in 2008 and is a key member of the Bühler Food Safety Initiative - driving strategic innovation projects in the field of food safety. Béatrice received her Master’s Degree and PhD from ETH Zurich in Switzerland. Before joining Bühler, Béatrice worked at ETH Zürich for 20 years as a researcher, lecturer and consultant to the food industry and governmental organisations.  

Why is feed safety becoming increasingly more important?   
Feed safety ultimately means food safety, and this awareness is growing among all stakeholders in the value chain. We have huge pains in the feed to food value chain such as Salmonella. Feed is one of the main contamination vectors for these food-borne pathogens, which can lead to huge public health costs. We also have the risk of mycotoxins in raw materials which are used in feed production. Mycotoxins are chemical compounds produced by moulds that grow on the raw material in the field or during storage. Aflatoxin, the most toxic mycotoxin is commonly found on maize. Until recently this has only been a problem in tropical regions; however it is now also an emerging hazard in the northern hemisphere - most likely related to climate change.

Why do feed manufacturers need to be concerned about mycotoxins?

All grain used in feed is at risk of being contaminated with mycotoxins. Maize, which is the main feed grain around the world, often presents Aflatoxin B1. This is by far the most toxic mycotoxin and most animals are very sensitive to this chemical contaminant. Today acute mycotoxicosis in animals is rare, however chronic intoxications are common, resulting in organ damage, impaired reproduction, decreased feed conversion rate and reduced overall productivity. Dairy cows fed with Aflatoxin B1-contaminated feed may excrete Aflatoxin M1 in its milk. The only measure to control animal exposure to Aflatoxins and avoid the unsafe transfer into the food chain is to ensure that the feed is compliant with the regulated maximum levels.

What are the limits for grains affected with mycotoxins with regards to feed and food?
Most countries around the world have regulations that set permitted levels of mycotoxins in raw materials, feedstuff and food products. For food ingredients and end products it is common to find maximum limits for aflatoxin B1, deoxynivalenol, zearalenone and ochratoxin A. Given the high toxicity of aflatoxin B1, the tolerable daily intake, in particular for high-risk consumer groups, is very low. For instance the maximum level of aflatoxin B1 in cereal-based foods for babies and young children has been set, in the EU, at 0.10 μg/kg (0.1 parts per billion). Aflatoxin maximum levels have also been set for feedstuff and there are guidance levels in place for other mycotoxins.

What can we do about contaminated grains for applications in feed?
Ideally, the problem should be tackled at the root cause by minimising the risk for growth of mould fungi. This can be achieved through good agricultural and post harvest practices such as the quick drying of the harvested grains to safe moisture levels and ensuring proper storage conditions. But if the grain still presents elevated levels of mycotoxin, then cleaning and sorting becomes essential to remove the excessive toxin from the feed and food value chain. In a study conducted in collaboration with the Institute of Sciences of Food Production ISPA it was found that an effective way of reducing the levels of mycotoxin in maize - while minimising the amount of rejected product - is the combination of mechanical cleaning, aspiration of light fractions and advanced optical sorting.

Why is the Sortex A optical sorter regarded as the cornerstone of feed and food safety?
Optical sorting of raw materials, such as maize, is an effective and efficient process to reduce the levels of mycotoxins. Contamination is often caused by only a few highly infected grains which may occur in so-called hotspots. Sorting is therefore seen as the most important control measure at the grain level. The detection technology used in the Sortex A optical sorter is able to accurately recognise and eliminate mould-infected grains, as they tend to differ from the non-affected product by properties such as colour, size or shape. Experts at Bühler have an in-depth knowledge of the optical indicators associated with mycotoxin contamination, gained through extensive case studies in affected crops and confirmed with customers and research institutions. 

Read the magazine HERE.

The Global Miller
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