A North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services laboratory topped 20 others from around the world in a recent series of proficiency tests for aflatoxin, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler has announced.

Aflatoxin is a chemical byproduct of the fungus Aspergillus flavus, which can contaminate corn and other grains grown or stored under highly humid conditions. Aflatoxin can be fatal to animals and humans.

“We are pleased to finish at the top of these rankings,” Troxler said. “They signify that our lab is very, very good at detecting this potentially deadly toxin.”

The testing series was sponsored by the American Oil Chemists’ Society, an organization that focuses on high standards of quality for scientists interested in the science and technology of fats, oils and related materials.

Eighteen U.S. labs and three from other countries took part in the testing program during the 2005-2006 program year.

The society sent the participating labs a series of eight samples of corn meal to analyze for the presence of aflatoxin. The labs ran tests on the samples and sent the results to the society, which compared them with established standards, said Roger McDaniel, laboratory director for the NCDA&CS Food and Drug Protection Division. When the results were in, North Carolina had the highest score.

The laboratory analyzes about 5,000 food, feed, forage and other samples per year for mycotoxins, which are caused by a fungus or mold. The lab also collaborates with other state agencies to help ensure the safety of the food supply for humans and their animals.