Leif Sundheim

Potential Speaker for plant science 2017-Leif Sundheim

Title: Risk assessment of deoxynivalenol in humans and animals.

Leif Sundheim

Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, Norway


Dr. Leif Sundheim did his PhD in Plant Pathology at the University of  Minnesota, USA. He is professor emeritus in Plant Pathology at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and worked as Research Director for Division of Plant Health at the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research. He is the member of the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety since its establishment in 2004 and was Chairman of the Plant Health Panel and Member of the Scientific Steering Committee during seven years. He has research experience on foliar plant diseases, soilborne plant disease, biological control of plant pathogens, mycotoxins.


The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety assessed the risk for adverse effects of deoxynivalenol (DON) in different human age groups and in domestic animals. DON is the  most prevalent mycotoxin in Norwegian cereals, and DON is present in virtually all samples of crude cereal grain, compound feed for animals and cereal food products such as flour, bran and oat flakes. The critical effects of DON are reduction of feed intake and weight gain and impairment of the immune system. Based on the consumption data, the exposure to DON was calculated for different human age groups. The estimated mean and high (95-percentile) exposure to DON in years with low and mean concentration of DON in the flour, respectively, were in the range of, or exceeded the TDI by almost 2 times in 1-year-old infants and 2 year-old-children. In years with high mean DON concentration, the high (95-percentile) exposure exceeded the TDI up to 3.5 times for 1-, 2- , 4- and 9 years old. The assessment concluded that exceeding the TDI in infants and children is of concern, although TDI is not a threshold for toxicity. The estimated dietary intakes of DON in adolescence and in the adult populations are equal to or below the TDI and not a health concern. Pig is particularly sensitive to DON compared to other domestic animals. There is a high risk of performance and welfare effects in pigs due to exposure to DON via feed produced by commonly used recipes from cereals. The risk increases with the amount of oat in recipes. The risk for adverse health effects of DON in broiler chickens is considered moderate, while for laying hens the risk is considered low. Normally, the risk for adverse effects in horses is considered low, but higher amounts of oats in the diet increases the risk for effects. The risk in ruminants is considered negligible. Also, for Atlantic salmon the risk for adverse DON effects is considered negligible.