German monitoring 2012–2014: ergot of Claviceps purpurea and ergot alkaloids (EA) in feedingstuffs and their toxicological relevance for animal feeding
Feedingstuffs are frequently contaminated with sclerotia (ergot) of the phytopathogenic fungus Claviceps purpurea. Ergot contains ergot alkaloids (EA), but the amount and composition of these substances may be highly variable hampering the extrapolation of the amount of EA from the ergot content. 600 different feed samples from the harvest years 2011–2014 (rye, triticale, wheat, mixed cereal grains or compound feed), preferably those with visible ergot infestation, were analyzed for both parameters ergot and EA content in a German monitoring program. The analytical results were employed for statistical evaluation using the software JMP® 13. The data show that the correlation between the ergot and the EA content was rather poor, especially for rye, the grain most frequently contaminated with ergot and EA. Consequently, effects on animal health correlated much better with EA than with ergot content. Furthermore, it shows that the current European law for undesirable substances (Directive 2002/32/EC) restricting the ergot content in feed materials and compound feed containing unground cereals is not fully sufficient to protect animal health. Therefore, preliminary guidance values for species-specific critical values for total EA content in the diets are derived and suggested for practical use. Further research is needed to verify these preliminary guidance values and to improve risk evaluation in consideration of the significant variability in the species-specific sensitivity.