By Bühler, Switzerland
Mycotoxins, a poisonous chemical found in the corn used in petfoods, are causing animal sickness and irreparable brand damage. To solve this issue, SORTEX LumoVision, a solution developed by Swiss technology group Bühler, uses the spectral scale to kick out mold from petfood, keeping the costs of market recall down and pets safe.
In 2021, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) alerted customers of fatal levels of aflatoxin, a strand of mycotoxin that attacks the liver, found in 1,000 lots of petfood. From the bad batch, it is reported that 130 dogs died. This statistic provoked lawsuits and anger from dog owners and the wider industry. However, the damage of mycotoxin contamination does not stop there.
Recalling product is expensive
One of the major costs of mycotoxin contamination is market recall. Recalling a product from the market is not cheap, in fact, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) discovered that the average cost of market recall is USD10 million in direct costs alone. The financial hits of recalling product include: disposing of the product, reimbursing customers, and business interruption. The GMA survey showed that 81 percent of respondents deemed the financial risk of market recall to be “significant to catastrophic”.
Contaminated product damages brand image
Financial costs and damage to health are not the only repercussions of mycotoxin contamination. Once the media are aware of the situation, brand image can take a significant hit. For consumers, it takes a lot to repair trust in a brand, and while brand damage is difficult to measure, this can further cost companies millions in lifetime value.
Contaminated product can cause mass waste
Before the LumoVision, contaminated grain would have been disposed of in large amounts. During testing, if the batch has a high concentration of mycotoxin, in many cases, the entire batch is destroyed. In fact, as few as two highly contaminated grains in 10,000 can render an entire batch unsafe. The Food and Drug Association (FDA) estimate that US$932 million is lost per year to crops contaminated with mycotoxin. This removal of the contaminated material may protect the consumer, but it costs businesses and the environment a lot more.
What can be done?
Bühler SORTEX faced the challenge of mycotoxin contamination head-on. After discovering a breakthrough “invisible indicator” of contamination on the spectral scale, Bühler created the LumoVision, an optical sorter that can reduce the aflatoxin level by up to 90 percent (as indicated by industrial trials). This reduction brings many samples to regulation levels, saving companies from the costs of large-scale material waste and market recall.
It works by analysing the colour each kernel fluoresces as it passes under powerful UV lighting in the sorter. It is known that contaminated kernels fluoresce a specific bright green colour, a substance called kojic acid, which is produced by the Aspergillus fungus at the same time as it produces aflatoxin. LumoVision’s proprietary, highly sensitive cameras and a powerful LED-based UV lighting system can precisely detect this color of fluorescence. Within milliseconds of detection, air nozzles deploy to blow contaminated kernels out of the product stream.
When dealing with toxins, early intervention is critical. This is not only important in reducing the toxins consumed by pets, but also to lower wastage and the environmental footprint. Without proper cleaning and sorting, poisonous mycotoxins can cause large-scale wastage of materials, mass market recalls, and harm to pets.
Dr Gerardo Morantes, Director of Food Safety-Americas Region at Buhler, had the following to say, “Mycotoxins are a worldwide concern. However, technology made possible by Bühler SORTEX enables a preventative solution, meaning that mycotoxins can be dealt with early, stopping the spread and removing the contamination to meet regulatory standards.”
Without intervention, mycotoxin contamination can bare a large cost for businesses, including, brand reputation, market recalls and material waste. With the SORTEX LumoVision, brands can stay profitable, customers can stay happy and pets can stay safe.