July 11, 2014

Testing for aflatoxin in milk ends

The Iowa Department of Agriculture has lifted it requirement that milk in the state be tested for the aflatoxin mold that can be found in corn during times of drought. The aflatoxin can get into milk through contaminated corn eaten by dairy cows.

State Ag Secretary Bill Northey says they began requiring milk testing shortly after this year’s harvest — with only four loads of milk testing positive. “We’ve tested almost 90-million gallons of milk since we’ve had a positive in milk, so we’ve gone many, many months now. Folks are handling the corn the right way,” Northey says.

“We’ll probably see some of the companies still doing testing, but we know that our milk is safe without us requiring testing.” Aflatoxin can be a problem for humans. “It can cause illness, usually probably not at the low levels that we found out in milk, we just don’t want any at all in the milk, and folks have handled it very well,” Northey says.

The Iowa-based Hy-Vee supermarket chain recalled some dog food because of a test that found aflatoxin in it. Northey says that was likely due to corn in the dog food that came from Missouri. “Missouri actually has some more problems with aflatoxin than we have, so it can show up in other products, certainly corn is in many products,” Northey says.

He says there is zero tolerance for aflatoxin in food products. On the feed side, he says animals raised for meat can handle small amounts of aflatoxin in their feed and it is not a problem. The Ag Department has a corn-blending program where clean corn can be mixed with corn that contains aflatoxin to be used in feed for non-dairy animals.

Northey says the grain buyers keep a good track of aflatoxin. “Generally where there was a problem, or if folks are buying corn from an area where there was a problem, most of the folks that are buying corn are testing it, and so they want to know how that corn can be used,” Northey explains.

“The know if it tests low amount it can’t be used for diary cattle. If it tests for a higher amount, it may or may not be used for animal feed, it can’t be used for human feed, so they want to know what that is.” The last positive test for aflatoxin in milk was on November seventh of last year.