Project: Removal of mycotoxin-contaminated wheat and corn grains through fast and precise single kernel analysis and sorting

The goal of the MYCOSORT project is to develop an innovative sorting device which removes mycotoxin-contaminated kernels from wheat or corn grain batches, by means of fast and precise “kernel by kernel” analysis and segregation._x000D__x000D_Mycotoxins are toxic secondary metabolites produced by certain fungi which naturally colonize crops in the field or after harvest. Common mycotoxins found in wheat and corn include Aflatoxin, Fumonisin,Deoxynivalenol (DON), etc [1]. Mycotoxin contamination is estimated to occur in 25% of the world’s crops, resulting in annual losses of 1 billion tons of foods [2]. Due to the significant health threats which mycotoxins pose to humans and animals [1], the need for a solution to this worldwide problem is critical. _x000D__x000D_A number of approaches have been investigated to eliminate the toxicity effects of mycotoxins in foods [3, 4]. Unfortunately, practical removal of mycotoxins or its effects is not currently feasible and therefore not used today. Some methods are available today to reduce the contamination concentration through cleaning, gravity tables [5], or optical sorting [6,7]. Ultimately, for an effective solution, these methods must be able to detect contaminated grains at high accuracy and reduce their concentration to a very small amount below the safety level for human and animal consumption. So far, high-speed sorting is possible, but only for two types of mycotoxins (Aflatoxin and Fumonisin) and only for corn [7]._x000D_ _x000D_In the absence of effective solutions, more than 100 countries have established regulations to control mycotoxin levels in the food and feed industry [8]. The safety tolerance for Aflatoxin content in food products is very strict, e.g. 4 part-per-billion (ppb) for wheat products and 10 ppb for corn which is to be further processed or used as ingredients in the EU. For DON, the safety tolerance is 750 ppb for wheat products ready for consumption. Accordingly, each shipment of grain products is carefully sampled based on specified protocols and measured according to the established regulations. A few samples of a few kg are extracted from the shipment lot (usually corresponding to several tons) and analyzed for mycotoxin content. If mycotoxins above legal levels are detected in any sample, the whole shipment lot has to be re-targeted (e.g. crushing for oil, animal feed, etc) when possible or destroyed when the detected level is too high. _x000D__x000D_Mycotoxins are localized to individual kernels and not distributed uniformly in a lot [9]. Aflatoxin has been shown to occur at high levels in only a few corn kernels in a lot, thereby requiring comprehensive sampling procedures to allow a valid analysis [10,11]. Today's regulated screening solution is therefore wasteful, destroying a large amount of non-contaminated grains due to the lack of ability to identify the few contaminated grains in the lot. Moreover, the analysis accuracy is highly dependent on the sampling process, which is very challenging when mycotoxin concentration is very low or null in some parts and extremely high in other parts. _x000D__x000D_With today's situation, in addition to severe health impacts, the economic impact of grain loss due to mycotoxin is significant. Aflatoxins in maize in the U.S. have been estimated as a $225 mil/yr impact, in addition to mitigation costs ($20-30 mil/yr just for testing). Losses associated with DON in the US were estimated at $655 mil/yr, with the majority of the losses in wheat [12]. In a wheat epidemic in Hungary (1998), direct and indirect losses were estimated at 100 million Euros [13]._x000D__x000D_In this project, we aim to develop a high-throughput sorting device which can remove mycotoxin-contaminated grains from a shipment lot by (i) precisely analyzing each kernel one at a time for presence of mycotoxin and (ii) physically separating them from the batch of clean grains. To be practical and effective in removing contaminated grains, the single kernel analysis has to be accurate and the sorting process has to be fast (multi-tons per hour). This device introduces three significant benefits: 1) The grains are analyzed kernel by kernel thereby eliminating sampling errors, 2) lots are cleaned for the presence of mycotoxins, and 3) lots that are analyzed by the MYCOSORT system will be guaranteed free from mycotoxins. _x000D__x000D_The MYCOSORT sorting device is an integration of innovative technologies, combining high-speed and precise mechanism, near-infrared spectroscopy, and fast calibration algorithms to allow high-throughput "kernel by kernel" handling and sorting to eliminate mycotoxin-contaminated grains. This innovation will enable agribusiness companies to rescue a considerable part of the crops, drastically reduce their financial losses, and to eliminate contaminated grains. This innovation will enable agribusiness companies to provide healthy products, rescue a considerable part of the crops, drastically reduce financial losses, and enhance agricultural sustainability.

Acronym MYCOSORT (Reference Number: 7027)
Duration 01/10/2012 - 01/04/2015
Project Topic MYCOSORT aims to develop an innovative sorting device which removes mycotoxin-contaminated kernels from wheat or corn grain batches, by means of fast and precise “kernel by kernel” analysis and segregation.
Project Results
(after finalisation)
a) the validation of an innovative method to remove aflatoxin contaminated corn kernels through a high-speed single kernel analysis and sorting._x000D_b) the combined output of the marketing activities and scientific research, proving that the mycotoxin group called aflatoxin was the most interesting subject of the analysis, with respect to the health, economic and environmental impact._x000D__x000D_During the project, some new scientific findings lead to the opportunity to carry the laboratory analysis at Société Générale de Surveillance - Hungary and at Société Générale de Surveillance - Odessa, Ukraine. _x000D_Therefore, Société Générale de Surveillance - Belgium NV was not involved in the project, as originally planned.
Network Eurostars
Call Eurostars Cut-Off 7

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
2 QualySense AG Coordinator Switzerland
2 Société Générale de Surveillance - Belgium NV Partner Belgium