The appearance of mycotoxins and the impact on poultry

1 November, 2021 Twan Koenen

In a previous article we discussed the hygiene problems in poultry processing due to mycotoxins. Thereby we also explained how IWC’s Undine® technology eliminates the effects of mycotoxins during all steps of the poultry processing process very effectively. In this article we take a closer look at the origin of mycotoxins and the possible explanation why the impact of such moulds in feed crops can vary from year to year – even between flocks.

Different impact of mycotoxins from animal to animal

It is of course important to test for mycotoxins continuously during the harvest and to keep the (heavily) contaminated batches out of the feed chain. However, as a poultry slaughterhouse you have no control over these matters. Toxins in animal feed have the necessary impact, especially on poultry with poor health or a poorly functioning immune system. These are the reasons why the effects of mycotoxins may vary from year to year and why one animal in a flock may be severely affected by the effects of mycotoxins while the other is hardly affected at all. You can read more details about this in this article.

Assessing risks and anticipating them

As a processor, you have no influence on the quality and conditions of the poultry that comes in from poultry farms. Upon arrival, it is up to you, under the supervision of the veterinary inspection, to ensure food safety and product hygiene under all circumstances. However, knowledge of the background and the preliminary process will enable you to assess the risks and anticipate them.

Toxins from moulds

Mycotoxin is an amalgamation of myco from mould and toxin from poisonous. It is a collective name for fungal toxins that develop in particular under moist and warm conditions in forage crops, such as maize, wheat, barley and soya. Mycotoxins occur in many more crops and there are thousands of known fungal variants. At the end of a sultry, wet summer, it is therefore good to take extra account of this in poultry slaughterhouses. This immediately makes the problem seasonal and farmer/flock dependent.

What makes the consequences so diverse and where do flock differences come from?

Depending on the region, farmers feed their chickens from 2 sources: mixed feed from the feed factory and parallel (flattened) wheat to reduce feed costs. There are regional differences, but with many Northern European poultry farmers this is regularly the case. Feed manufacturers usually test each batch for the presence of mycotoxins, among other things. In years with many mycotoxin contaminated batches, there are 2 possibilities:

  1. Instead of being used in cattle or pig feed, these batches can be processed in poultry feed (poultry has much higher acceptance values than, for example, pigs or cattle).
  2. The batch is rejected and has to find another destination, for example directly to farmers, where often no analysis takes place.

If you combine these 2 aspects, it can lead to high mycotoxin values – especially for the wheat supplementary feed farmers – and to large differences between flocks, even among themselves. When for instance the feed producer has already put toxins in the feed up to the limit value and the farmer himself feeds (heavily) mycotoxin-loaded batches of wheat, the toxin loads for a flock can rise to (far) above the limit values. It is these flocks of chickens that look healthy in the house, but cause problems in the processing line.

And as there is usually hardly any testing on the farms, these are channels through which the trade can get rid of mycotoxin-loaded batches. For this reason, you cannot detect a line in the processing cycle, as it can vary from farmer to farmer and even from flock to flock.

How mycotoxins worsen the health of poultry

The immune system and a healthy gastrointestinal system of the poultry keep the animals healthy and fight many pathogenic bacteria. However, during the processing in poultry slaughterhouses – especially at the ready-to-cook line – the effects of mycotoxins in the feed can cause many problems. In a previous article, we already specifically discussed the poorer condition of, for example, the digestive system due to mycotoxins, the occurrence of salmonella, among other things, and how this worsens processing hygiene. However, there are a few other aspects where mycotoxins can have a negative influence on optimal processing:

  1. Mycotoxins can indirectly disrupt the immune system and physiological processes in the body, which in turn can be the cause of reduced health, presence of pathogens and processability in the process lines. Think not only of organs, but also, for example, of poor feather cover with reduced picking performance.
  2. Furthermore, various studies have been published showing that some mycotoxins have a negative impact on the success of vaccinations and the level of vaccination titres. As a result, vaccinations may be less effective and have a negative impact on immunity. This in turn leads to health problems or the presence of pathogens such as salmonella.
  3. Finally, there are relationships known whereby mycotoxins cause, for example, an impaired or weakened bone structure and whereby joints are affected. This in turn can lead to more than average fractures or dislocations of joints in the processing process, such as during picking.

This last point in particular makes it more difficult to guarantee optimum animal welfare in the pre-harvest phase and has major economic consequences in the harvesting process, for example due to damaged wings.

IWC thinks along in solutions

Recognising the problems caused by mycotoxins in poultry processing is, as far as IWC is concerned, the first step in finding an adequate solution for these problems. There are measures that can neutralise the effects. Knowledge about the effects and the relation to (product) hygiene offers the possibility to take preventive (hygiene) measures. With the same knowledge and information about the flocks, you as a processor can make a risk analysis to identify certain seasons or individual flocks and implement additional preventive hygiene measures, for example, by changing the settings.

Some concrete example solutions of Undine®

In such circumstances, Undine® solutions can also optimise processes such as the scalding and picking process. For example, washing/moistening before forcing, whereby the forwarder’s first job immediately becomes effective forcing time. Or an Undine® turbo on the first and/or second breaker, so that they become more effective and can be set a little looser.

Want to know more? Get in touch with us!

Would you like to know more about the highly effective way our Undine® technology tackles traces of mycotoxins and other contaminants in the slaughter process? Then get in touch with us. IWC is at your service!

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