Different batches of biomass/feed quality maize contaminated by aflatoxins were processed at the industrial scale (a continuous process and separate discontinuous steps) to evaluate the effect of different cleaning solutions on toxin reduction. The investigated cleaning solutions included: (i) mechanical size separation of coarse, small and broken kernels, (ii) removal of dust/fine particles through an aspiration channel, (iii) separation of kernels based on gravity and (iv) optical sorting of spatial and spectral kernel defects. Depending on the sampled fraction, dynamic or static sampling was performed according to the Commission Regulation No. 401/2006 along the entire cleaning process lines. Aflatoxin analyses of the water–slurry aggregate samples were performed according to the AOAC Official Method No. 2005.008 based on high-performance liquid chromatography and immunoaffinity column cleanup of the extracts. A significant reduction in aflatoxin content in the cleaned products, ranging from 65% to 84% with respect to the uncleaned products, was observed when continuous cleaning lines were used. Additionally, an overall aflatoxin reduction from 55% to 94% was obtained by combining results from separate cleaning steps. High levels of aflatoxins (up to 490 µg/kg) were found in the rejected fractions, with the highest levels in dust and in the rejected fractions from the aspirator and optical sorting. This study shows that a cleaning line combining both mechanical and optical sorting technologies provides an efficient solution for reducing aflatoxin contamination in maize.
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