Ergot alkaloids have existed as long as crops have been grown, although recognition of the detrimental effects the mycotoxin has on feed and affected animals were not fully explored until recent times.
The term ergot alkaloid refers to a diverse group of 40 toxins produced by a group of fungi known as claviceps. It is often seen in years where wet weather is prevalent in spring and early summer, during the flowering stage of cereal crops, or when low temperatures are present during grain fill.
The fungus replaces developing grain or seed with the alkaloid wintering body known as ergot or sclerotium. Sclerotia are harvested with the cereals or grass and, if not removed before processing, can lead to contamination of cereal-based food and feed products.
Ergot infection reduces grain quantity and quality. The occurrence of contamination in various crops is of growing concern and has major implications for feed safety, food security and international trade, resulting in economic losses for producers.
These toxins cause highly dangerous ergotism when contaminated grains are fed to animals or consumed by humans.
Contaminated feed with toxic levels of ergot alkaloids has been found to effect the reproductive cycles of pigs, poultry and cattle, as well as their immune and nervous systems.
They have also been shown to impact digestive systems, resulting in under-performance in weight gain for meat production. More subtle effects, including reduced appetite, also start to appear at much lower levels.
Randox Food test for the world’s most prevalent mycotoxins, including ergot alkaloids, in customisable arrays of up to ten toxins using biochip array technology. Biochip array technology is extremely efficient, giving results from a single sample in under two hours.
Studies also show there are no false negatives and less than 5% false positives, lowering the cost per sample and eliminating the need for costly single tests, as only positive samples require confirmatory testing.
Randox Food Diagnostics also provide a comprehensive ELISA test portfolio, including the ergot alkaloids ELISA.
Dedicated to simple and effective mycotoxin analysis, Randox Food’s ELISA kits are accurate, trusted globally, and offer excellent limits of detection of the primary toxin ergotamine at ppb.
Despite the fact that some countries have set limits for individual ergot alkaloids in food or feed, legislation for the testing of ergot alkaloids is set to develop in 2016. Having the right technology is key to meeting these challenges in the future.
With more than 30 years’ experience in the diagnostics market, Randox Food continues to transform the landscape of conventional mycotoxin and drug residue screening by developing revolutionary, high quality detection methods and kits. These cover all major antibiotics, growth promoters and anthelmintics used in global food production, such as animal tissue, seafood, honey and milk.