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Deoxynivalenol (DON)

DON CAS N° [51481-10-8]
- formula : C15H20O6
- molecular weight : 296.3 amu
- white crystals (mp = 152 °C)

- UV absorption : 218 nm ( ε = 6400 in acetonitrile)
- LD50 (bw mice) = 46 mg/kg
- TDI = 1 µg/kg bw


Deoxynivalenol (DON) belongs to one of the largest group of toxins, the type B-trichothecene mycotoxins that are produced particularly by moulds belonging to the Fusarium genus. So far, up to 170 trichothecene mycotoxins (Krska et al., 2001) with a common tetracyclic, sesquiterpenoid 12,13-epoxytrichothec-9-ene ring system have been identified. Due to the epoxide ring (World Health Organisation, 1990) those molecules are toxic.


According to their functionalities, this family of mycotoxins is divided in four classes: A, B, C, D. Because of his carbonyl functional group at the C8 position, the deoxynivalenol (DON) belongs to the trichothecenes of class B. The most frequently detected mycotoxins of this category are nivalenol (NIV), deoxynivalenol (DON, vomitoxin) and some derivatives as 3-acetyldeoxynivalenol (3-AcDON), 15-acetyldeoxynivalenol (15-AcDON).


During milling, most of the DON is recovered in the bran fraction and the lowest concentration is found in the flour. DON is a mycotoxin which survives both the backing and the brewing process.



Deoxynivalenol (DON)

Surveys have demonstrated that DON is widely distributed in cereals as natural contaminants. They are found as a consequence of Fusarium graminearum and culmorum attacks during flowering of the cereals. High levels in cereals are reported for wet years (especially during the flowering period of the cereals). Both Fusarium species (F. graminearum and F. culmorum) are the most important type B producing moulds.


As shown in several surveys, DON, the most prevalent type B trichothecene can mainly be found on maize, oats, barley and wheat. Durum wheat, which is used nearly exclusively for the production of pasta, is especially susceptible to Fusarium infection and often shows high levels of DON contamination.


The simultaneous occurrence of DON with other Fusarium mycotoxins, mainly other trichothecenes and zearalenone in various agricultural commodities has been reported in the literature (Gareis et al., 1989).


The first isolation of DON occurred in 1972 in Japanese barley damaged by Fusarium. Further isolated from F.graminarum infected maize, causing vomiting in swine, DON was also nicknamed "vomitoxin" (USA, 1973).


The rate of transmission into cow-milk is very low (<4µg/l). Transmission of the residues of DON to meat and milk is negligible while some transfer of DON and his metabolite DOM-1 can occur to eggs.


DON is primarily located in the grains on which Fusarium is growing. Here most of the mycelium is expected on the external surfaces of the kernels. Only little translocation occurs to other parts of the kernel. So far, little concentration of DON has been found in the flour. High level of DON contamination is often found deeper in the kernel (and in the flour) when a high contamination level of mycelium is reached on the external surfaces of the kernels.


During milling, most of the DON is recovered in the bran fraction and the lowest concentration is found in the flour. DON survives both the baking and the brewing process.

NORMS AND LEGISLATION (maximal allowed levels in feed and food) :

Maximum levels in maize and maize products (foodstuffs)


COMMISSION REGULATION (2007/1126/EC) of 28 September 2007 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs as regards Fusarium toxins in maize and maize products.

Maximum levels in other foodstuffs: wheat, durum wheat, oats, barley...


COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 1881/2006 of 19 December 2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs

Prevention and reduction in cereals and cereal products


COMMISSION RECOMMENDATION (2006/583/EC) of 17 August 2006 on the prevention and reduction of Fusarium toxins in cereals and cereal products

Maximum levels in animal feed


COMMISSION RECOMMENDATION (2006/576/EC) of 17 August 2006 on the presence of deoxynivalenol, zearalenone, ochratoxin A, T-2 and HT-2 and fumonisins in products intended for animal feeding

Tolerable daily intake


COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 856/2005 of 6 June 2005 amending Regulation (EC) No 466/2001 as regards Fusarium toxins


CODA-CERVA is mainly dedicated to scientific research and services in the field of food safety, public and animal health. He also provides analytical facilities for third part by the determination of Fusarium toxins in cereals and cereal products. This activity is accredited according to the European Quality norm ISO 17025.


CODA-CERVA is the Belgian Federal Reference Laboratory (NRL) for mycotoxins.

As NRL, the activities of CODA-CERVA are focused on scientific research developing leading edges in order to help analytical laboratories to develop their own activities and/or to properly use commercial analytical techniques. Our main activities are :

-control and comparison of quantitative or qualitative kits for DON determination sold on the marked,

-organisation of ring test,

-education of the personnel of external laboratories and coordination between the National reference laboratory (NRL), the European reference laboratory (CEN) and the analytical laboratories, by the organization of scientific meetings about the activities done by the NRL and emerging researches,

-helping the authorities regarding new legislation and regulation about emerging mycotoxins by development of new analytical methods



Deoxynivalenol (DON)

- The Operational Direction "Chemical Safety of the Food Chain" focuses his research in developing analytical methods for the determination of Fusarium toxins with special emphasis on trichothecenes such as DON as well as other toxins.

-A method was developed for the determination of DON and potential emerging mycotoxins in stored cereals. Using this tool, the impact of grain contamination was assessed with special attention on the mycotoxigenic potential of grain dust.

-In collaboration with other research teams in Belgium, a large study devoted to the comparison of mycotoxin levels and especially DON in organic and conventional foodstuffs has been carried out and additional surveys were carried out in order to further assess the level of DON and other mycotoxins in beer.

- In collaboration with other research teams in Belgium, isolation, identification and purification of well known (e.g. DON) and emerging mycotoxins for toxicological studies at concentrations that are plausible for the gastro-intestinal tract.

- Silages: tracking of DON and emerging mycotoxins

- Rapid methods for the determination of DON in Feed and Food

The complete reports of the CODA-CERVA on the evaluation of the commercial kits for the detection of the DON mycotoxin are available

Executive summary report

Administrative evaluation

Experimental report

- transfer studies of DON and other mycotoxins from feed to animal products (CONTEGG, MYCOTOXPLUIM)



Alfons Callebaut

Philippe Debongnie

Emmanuel Tangni

Bart Huybrechts

Jorina Geys



- Tangni EK, Motte JC, Callebaut A, Pussemier L. Cross-reactivity of antibodies in some commercial deoxynivalenol test kits against some fusariotoxins. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Dec 22;58(24):12625-33.


- Tangni E.K., Debongnie P., Motte J-C., Callebaut A., Pussemier L. 2009. Administrative evaluation of fast commercial test kits for the determination of deoxynivalenol in cereals. Final Report CODA Chemie -AFSCA 96 pp.

- Tangni E.K., Debongnie P., Motte J-C., Callebaut A., Pussemier L. 2009. Experimental evaluation of fast commercial test kits for the determination of deoxynivalenol in cereals. Final Report CODA Chemie - AFSCA 50 pp.
- Tangni E.K., Waegeneers N., Van Overmeire I, Goeyens L., Pussemier L. 2009. Mycotoxin analyses in some home produced eggs in Belgium reveal small contribution to the total daily intake. Science of the Total Environment 407:4411-4418.
- Van Overmeire, L. Pussemier, N. Waegeneers, V. Hanot, I. Windal, L. Boxus, A. Covaci, G. Eppe, M.L. Scippo, I. Sioen, M. Bilau, X. Gellynck, H. De Steur, E.K. Tangni, L. Goeyens. 2009. Assessment of the chemical contamination in home-produced eggs in Belgium: general overview of the contegg study. Science of the Total Environment 407:4403-4410..


- Tangni E.K., Pussemier L., Bastiaanse H., Depoorter J., Haesaert G., Robbens J. & Van Hove F. 2008. Characterization of fungal species and Mycotoxin contaminating silages in Belgium Project C3/00/22 Belspo.
- Tangni E. K., Pussemier L., Callebaut A., Debongnie P. & Van Hove F. Contamination of maize silages in Belgium by Fusarium mycotoxins. In: CODA-CERVA Annual scientific report 2008.


- Harcz P, Tangni E.K., Wilmart O., Moons E., Van Peteghem C., De Saeger S., Schneider Y-J., Larondelle Y., Pussemier L. 2007. Intake of ochratoxin A and deoxynivalenol through beer consumption in Belgium. Food Additives and contaminants 24 (8): 910-916.
- Tangni E.K., Pussemier L. 2007. Ergosterol and mycotoxins in grain dusts from fourteen Belgian cereal storages: a preliminary screening survey. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 87 (7): 1263-1270.


-Anselme M., Tangni E.K. Pussemier L, Motte J-C, Van Hove F, Schneider Y-J, Van Peteghem C, Larondelle Y. 2006. Comparison of ochratoxin A and deoxynivalenol loads of organically and conventionally produced beers sold on the Belgian market. Food Additives and contaminants contaminants 23(9): 910-918.
- Pussemier L, Piérard J-Y,. Anselme M., Tangni E.K. J-C Motte, Larondelle Y. 2006. Development and application of analytical methods adapted to the determination of mycotoxins in organic and conventional cereals. Food Additives and contaminants 23(11): 1208-1218.

- Chandelier A., Michelet J.Y., Tangni E.K., Baert K., Moons E., Vinkx C., 2004, Mycotoxin surveys in Belgium and toxigenic Fusarium in Belgian wheat. In: Logrieco A. and Visconti A. (Editors) An overview on toxigenic fungi and mycotoxins in Europe. (pp 11-32). Kluwer Academic Publishers. Dordrecht (The Netherlands).

- Pierard, J.Y., Depasse, C., Delafortrie, A., Motte, J.C., "Multi-mycotoxin determination methodology", in "Meeting the Mycotoxin menace", Barug, D., van Egmond, H., Lopez-Garcia, R., van Osenbruggen, T. and Visconti, A. ed, Wageningen Academic Publishers, 2004, pp 255-268, ISBN-907-69982-80.



International Society for Mycotoxicology (ISM), Dr Angelo Visconti president), ISPRA, Bari, Italy.


FAPAS®, The Food and Environment Research Agency, Sand Hutton, York, UK, YO41 1LZ,


Institut National de Recherche Agronomique, 147 rue de l'Université 75338 Paris , France


BIPEA, Organizing interlaboratory comparisons tests and assistance for laboratories to manage, maintain and improve their performances, F-92230 Gennevilliers, France.