Mycotoxins are poisonous trace organic residues of mold deterioration. Mycotoxins are not alive themselves, but instead are very potent compounds causing, at very low dosages (parts per million (ppm) or parts per billion (ppb)), a variety of human and animal health problems. Individual mycotoxins are produced by specific mold strains under more restrictive growth conditions than for the molds themselves. Mycotoxins are not automatically produced whenever grain becomes moldy. However, from a risk viewpoint, the likelihood of toxins is greater in damaged kernels than in sound kernels.
Although aflatoxin has received the majority of public attention, advances in chemical detection methods have identified several others that can create problems for grain users. All mycotoxins are present in non-uniformly distributed trace concentrations. Normal bulk sample quality detection methods are hard to use for trace levels. Trace toxics in general will present increasing difficulty for bulk grain handlers.