02/2017, Finished R&D Projects

Development of an automated test box for the detection of mycotoxins in food- / feedstuffs based on insects

  • funding program: ZIM-KF (BMWi)
  • project partner: Füllner & Partner GmbH
  • term: 01.02.2017 – 31.01.2019

Initial position:

Mycotoxins are secondary metabolic products of different types of fungi that can be highly toxic as they can be carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic and immunosuppressive. Both food and feed can be affected by fungi and therefore able to impact meat and milk production.
As the formation of mycotoxins is weather dependent, its occurrence cannot be fully prevented. Therefore, most countries have introduced guidelines or limits for mycotoxins and concentrations in food and feed should be frequently monitored.
The routine detection of mycotoxins is currently being carried out using two analytical methods: residue analytical methods (HPLC) and rapid tests (ELISA, bio-assay). Both variants differ in cost, personnel expenditure and their detection limits, but require an external laboratory. The targeted procedure will save time as it can be performed on site. but It can, however, not replace the quantitatively secured HPLC method for positive samples. The biggest advantage is that due to the low costs, the sample density can be increase, which contributes to the improvement of feed / food quality.


The aim of the project is the development of a novel device for simple and cost-effective detection of mycotoxin loads in feedstuffs. In this way, the animal feed industry will be able to meet their own control requirements with reduced involvement of a third-party laboratory. The sample density can be significantly increased as well as the speed of the measurements, while at the same time the costs will be reduced. This reduces their operating risk significantly and improves feed safety in general. It is known that insects can detect mycotoxins with their olfactory sensor system, and they can used as a sensor. It is hypothesized that compared to e.g. synthetically produced polyclonal antibodies of conventional ELISA tests the reliability is better. These conventional tests tend to lead to nonspecific cross-reactions, which lead to false results. All device components as well as attractant and scent extracts necessary for a safe measurement have to be developed within the project and tested under practical conditions.


With the help of a project partner, an alternative test was developed using a semi-automatic design. Artificially prepared nutrient solutions containing mycotoxins affected the behavior of the selected insects clearly and reproducibly. Confirmation with real samples is still required. A former PPM employee plans to commercialize these results and found a Start-Up Company.

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