By DOUG SCHMITZ
DES MOINES, Iowa — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Sept. 18 approved the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s (IDALS) request to allow corn containing more than 20 parts per billion (ppb) of aflatoxin to be blended with regular corn for livestock feed.
“Given the production challenges we have had this year, it is important we use all the corn we have in a safe and appropriate manner,” Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey said last Friday.
IDALS submitted the request to the FDA on Aug. 15, and subsequently started requiring the testing of all milk for aflatoxin on Aug. 31. It said the mixture of aflatoxin with corn of lower levels or no aflatoxin allows that corn to be safely fed to livestock pursuant to the FDA’s longstanding guidelines, in which farmers would have to sign a compliance agreement before blending.
“The FDA has well-established levels at which corn containing aflatoxin can be safely fed to livestock,” Northey added, “and this waiver gives grain handlers more flexibility to make sure the corn is used appropriately.”
The FDA granted the state of Iowa a similar request for the blend when aflatoxin was found in the state during droughts in 2003 and 2005. “This is really a pretty good thing for us,” said Clarke McGrath, Iowa State University extension field agronomist and partner program manager for ISU’s Corn & Soybean Initiative. “It gives folks a lot more flexibility on what they can do with the corn.”
But while Iowa has enough hotspots around the state for aflatoxins, McGrath said the corn fungus has created some headaches. “Growers and the industry both expect that this will open things up a bit in a safe and sensible manner, and keep grain flowing,” he explained.
Outlined in the FDA’s Action Levels for Aflatoxin in Animal Feeds, the compliance agreement also lists the requirements for grain dealers who will be blending corn containing aflatoxin with corn containing aflatoxin levels of less than 20 ppb.
“Before any grain dealer does any blending, it is important that they have completed a compliance agreement with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship,” Northey said.
IDALS said corn containing aflatoxin in concentrations of greater than 20 ppb cannot be used for human consumption and cannot be used for feed for dairy animals or for immature livestock of other species. Corn containing aflatoxin at 100 ppb or less, however, can be used in breeding cattle, swine and mature poultry.
IDALS added that corn with 200 ppb or less can be used with finishing swine greater than 100 pounds in weight, and that with 300 ppb or less can be used in finishing beef cattle. Corn with aflatoxin levels greater than 500 ppb cannot be blended. According to the FDA’s compliance agreement, once the blending operation is completed, each batch of blended corn will be analyzed to determine its aflatoxin level.
“The analysis shall be performed using the USDA Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) approved sampling, analysis protocols and testing procedures,” the document stated.
The compliance agreement, which will be in effect from the date of its completed execution until Oct. 31, also stated these results must be provided to the purchaser of the blended corn, who must also provide written assurance that the corn will be used for feed consistent with FDA guidance.
Prior to the use of the blended corn, and before shipment in interstate commerce, the seller will certify the aflatoxin level of the blended batch does not exceed the action level for the appropriate intended species.
“The seller of corn blended pursuant to this process will provide the purchaser with a copy of the analytical results and obtain written assurance from the purchaser that blended corn will be used as or in feed for mature poultry, breeding swine, finishing swine over 100 pounds, breeding cattle and finishing (feedlot) cattle,” the document stated. The blended corn will then be clearly identified and labeled for animal feed use only.
“We hope this will help keep combines rolling and elevators moving grain so that we can wrap up harvest before the weather turns on us,” McGrath said.
Following news of the state of Iowa’s request, the Illinois Department of Agriculture requested permission in a Sept. 24 letter to the FDA to blend aflatoxin corn with regular corn, since “initial results from a statewide survey show above-normal levels of aflatoxin in corn.
“As a result of the dry growing conditions, there is a general concern that this year’s crop has experienced decreased yields, quality issues and the presence of potentially higher levels of aflatoxin than is normally experienced,” the letter stated.
Last Thursday, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture announced the FDA granted its request to allow grain companies to blend corn containing “higher levels of aflatoxin that exceed the FDA’s normal guidelines.”