Vomitoxin is a group name for many natural poisons made by fungi from the genus Fusarium. These fungi grow on grains, such as wheat, rice, barley, and corn. The vomitoxin can stay in the grain. Things made out of the grain, such as flour, beer, or other food, may have vomitoxin in them. If humans or other animals eat the food, they can become sick with vomiting, dizziness, pain, and other problems. These problems usually stop after some time.
There are more than 140 different vomitoxins. The three most common are deoxynivalenol, nivalenol, and T-2 toxin.
Deoxynivalenol does not break apart when it gets hot. It can be cooked at 350°C and still stay a poison. Some forms of cooking, like boiling, do help against deoxynivalenol. This is because the deoxynivalenol moves out of the grain into the water, and the water is thrown away.
Animals that eat grain or other food with vomitoxin in it usually do not die, but they do usually eat less. That makes them grow less.
Animals that eat grain that has vomitoxin in it can have the vomitoxin stay in their bodies. Chickens fed vomitoxin lay eggs with vomitoxin in them. Pigs fed vomitoxin have meat with vomitoxin in it. Cows fed vomitoxin give milk with vomitoxin in it. However, there is usually less vomitoxin in the animal product than in the grain that the animal ate.
Vomitoxin and the fungi that make it cost farmers money. According to Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Fusifarum in wheat and other crops cost C$50 million to $300 million each year in Canada alone from 1994 to 2014.
Farmers can do several things to prevent vomitoxin from getting into food. They can use crop rotation, plant seeds that have been checked to have no Fusarium in them, plant types of crops that are strong against Fusarium, and put fungicide on the crops to kill the fungus. Because fungal infections make the crop plants smaller and lighter, sometimes farmers can use combine harvesters to blow air on the crops so that the infected wheat blows away leaving the heavier healthy wheat behind.
- Pavlina Sobrova; Vojtech Adam; Anna Vasatkova; Miroslava Beklova; Ladislav Zeman; and Rene Kizek (September 2010). "Deoxynivalenol and its toxicity". Interdiscip Toxicol. 3 (3): 94–99. doi:10.2478/v10102-010-0019-x. Retrieved July 2, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Patty Milligan (December 2, 2014). "Fusarium in the bin". Retrieved July 2, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)