Prevention and control of mycotoxins in the poultry production chain requires the knowledge and consideration of all factors influencing mycotoxin formation in the field and during the storage of feedstuffs. Mycotoxin effects on health and performance of poultry and the ‘carry over’ of mycotoxins or their metabolites into foodstuffs of animal origin are also essential information elements.
Among a number of known my cotoxins, the Fusarium-mycotoxins deoxynivalenol (DON) and zearalenone (ZON) are of special importance under European production conditions because of their high frequency and concentrations. Several plant production strategies might help to minimize the risk of formation of these mycotoxins. However, higher mean values are unavoidable under unfavourable weather conditions. Therefore, special care must be taken in so-called ‘Fusurium-years’, because poultry is regarded as less sensitive to these mycotoxins than pigs and suspect cereal batches will be diverted to poultry feeding.
Higher dietary DON-concentrations adversely affect the performance and immune response of poultry at dietary concentrations of greater than 5 mg per kg diet. In contrast, zearalenone, which often co-occurs with DON, does not cause deleterious effects in poultry even in ‘Fusurium-years’ when higher concentrations are measured. ‘Carry over’ of both toxins into poultry products is very low and is negligible when the DON-concentration of the diet is restricted to this 5 mg per kg.
The levels of further Fusurium mycotoxins such as T-2 toxin, fumonisins, moniliformin or beauvericin to be expected in Europe are too low to cause toxic effects in poultry. However, several combinations of co-occurring mycotoxins might influence the total toxic potential of a contaminated feedstuff.
Several feed-processing procedures are suitable for reducing the DON-content of contaminated feedstuffs, but they are expensive or have been only lab-tested. Adsorbing agents were shown to either only weakly bind DON, or not to bind it at all in vitro, and to be ineffective in vivo. More recent efforts have been directed at employing the capability of several micro-organisms (bacteria and yeasts) to degrade DON for detoxification in situ.