The Mycotoxin Speed Analysis Paradox
When I was asked to write this piece for Affidia Journal’s Special Issue dedicated to the 2022 World Mycotoxin Forum, the first thing that came to my mind was the association between Pandemic - Mycotoxin - Speed. It may seem strange to you, but you will soon see how the three are closely interconnected.
The evolution of analytical methods for detecting mycotoxins in food in recent decades has experienced an increasingly spasmodic search for ever speedier results captured increasingly by keywords like rapid, quick, multi, simultaneous, etc. This has occurred at all levels, from rapid screening systems (lateral flow devices, ELISA, multiplex immunoassays, flow cytometry, etc.) to more sophisticated confirmatory systems (HPLC, LC-MS, LC-HRMS, etc.). The primary objective now seems to be to measure as quickly as possible as many mycotoxins/metabolites as possible for as many samples as possible and thus accumulate a large amount of data, controlling every substance from raw material to finished product. While such pursuits are certainly relevant and valuable from a certain perspective, parallel considerations may be just as important from another “Point of View”.
The two-plus years of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have potentially for the first time in human history forced the whole world to slow down– and even stop completely—all at once. It should have taught us some life lessons and, perhaps, even some lessons about our analytical approaches! We had, I think, all felt that the time had come to stop, to get away from a speeding vortex of haphazard actions, frustrating and superficial relationships, and decisions made without proper criteria or consideration. Slowing the race was a hidden (though perhaps subconscious, if still concrete) desire of many human beings, but we needed an external factor like Covid more powerful than our individual wills to make it real. During lockdown, we found the ability to reflect, to appreciate the wonders of the Earth, to renew and rediscover (and miss) sincere and careful human relationships, to give value to things for their quality and not mainly for their quantity. This is where my present reflection has led me.
Are we sure that the only right thing to do is to accumulate thousands of data points to analyse and process and elaborate? Or is it maybe worth collecting this data only when we really need to understand trends and forecast future scenarios? Might it be worthwhile to analyse more thoughtfully and accurately fewer mycotoxin samples of higher quality (without always including the hundreds of associated metabolites) to inform our decisions more carefully?
Let’s think about it! There is no single answer and no single path. In my opinion, both ways can coexist, depending on the targets and circumstances. It is up to us to decide how and when to follow them!
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