Ergot alkaloids (EAs) are mycotoxins produced by fungi including Claviceps spp. Among the cereal species, rye and triticale that have open florets are known to be especially susceptible, but wheat, barley, oats, and other cereal grains are also potential fungal hosts. The fungus replaces the developing grain or seed with the alkaloid-containing wintering body, known as the ergot body or sclerotium. The sclerotia are harvested together with the cereals or grass and can thus lead to contamination of cereal-based food and feed products with EAs. Ingestion of contaminated products can cause a number of harmful effects in humans and livestock.
Currently only a few countries have set limits for the individual EAs in feed (e.g. Canada); but no country has yet set limits in food as most do for other mycotoxins. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recommended that the major ergopeptines and their corresponding epimers be targeted for determination in food and feed to provide data to enable consumer exposure calculations. The results of those analyses were used estimate chronic and acute dietary exposure to EAs in humans and animals in Europe. This interest in monitoring is also reflected globally with method development and results of analyses being reported in North America and Asia.
This application note describes a method for the determination of 25 EAs in cereals using a rapid and simple sample extraction protocol followed by LC-MS/MS on the ACQUITY UPLC System coupled to Xevo TQ-S.