Deoxynivalenol (DON), also referred to as vomitoxin, is a naturally occurring mycotoxin produced by several species of Fusarium fungi. Wet and cool weather from flowering time to maturity promotes infection, resulting in scab or head blight in barley, wheat, oats, and rye. Wheat infected with scab has a tendency to have lighter weight kernels, some of which are removed during normal harvesting and cleaning operations. DON does not represent a threat to public health among the general population. However, it can--in rare cases—produce acute temporary nausea and vomiting in humans and animals.
FGIS provides DON testing service for barley, corn, oats, and wheat, as official criteria under the United States Grain Standards Act (USGSA). Even though USDA does not require domestic or export shipments to be tested for DON, FGIS does provide voluntary DON testing services locally, at various field locations, for both domestic and export lots. USDA DON testing services are available nationwide upon request and for a fee.
FGIS approved test kits use enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), monoclonal antibody affinity chromatography, lateral flow strip or fluorescence technology. To further assist the grain industry, FGIS also provides DON analysis for Board Appeal inspections using the more complex, High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) method, at the FGIS National Grain Center in Kansas City, Missouri. All USDA DON tests are performed as prescribed in the FGIS Mycotoxin Handbook by authorized employees of FGIS or licensed delegated/designated agency personnel.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently uses advisory levels to provide guidance to the grain industry concerning levels of DON present in food or feed. These levels provide an adequate margin of safety to protect human and animal health. Note: FDA advisory levels should not be confused with FDA action levels/limits.
Currently, FDA does not have an advisory level for DON in raw wheat intended for milling purposes, and will rely on processors to reduce the level in finished products for human consumption to a level that does not exceed 1 part-per-million (ppm). The FDA advisory levels for DON are as follows:
1 ppm - For corn and other grains intended for immature animals (including immature poultry) and for dairy animals, or when its destination is not known;
5 ppm - For corn and other grains intended for breeding beef cattle, breeding swine, or mature poultry;
10 ppm - For corn and other grains intended for finishing swine of 100 pounds or greater;
FGIS is not required to report any lots which exceed FDA’s advisory levels, and such lots are not subject to FDA seizure.