Ensuring that UK cereals used in malting, milling and animal feed achieve food and feed safety standards
About this project
This project is the latest in a series looking at the occurrence of key contaminants in UK-grown cereals to ensure compliance with legal and guideline limits for food and animal feedstuffs. The project covered wheat, barley and oats from the 2009, 2010 and 2011 harvests intended for use in the milling, malting and animal feed industries. Samples of each type of grain were collected immediately after harvest and after storage of up to six months. Relevant contaminants were identified through regular "horizon scanning" of official publications and scientific and agricultural literature and a sampling programme agreed by a steering committee comprising representatives of the relevant Trade Associations, HGCA and scientists from the contract laboratories. The contaminants selected were mycotoxins (Fusarium toxins, Ochratoxin A and ergot alkaloids), pesticides, including some growth regulators and desiccants, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and heavy metals.
The overwhelming majority of samples complied with legal and guideline limits. The storage mycotoxin, Ochratoxin A, although quite common in most sample types, was generally detected only at low concentrations, suggesting that mould growth and toxin synthesis are being adequately controlled by suitable storage conditions. Fusarium mycotoxins, produced during growth in the field, showed significant seasonal variations, though the trend of increasing prevalence observed in preceding years has not been sustained and to some extent has declined over the three years surveyed. This can probably be ascribed to a combination of climate conditions and agronomic practices.
Associated toxins, such as ergot alkaloids and masked mycotoxins, for which there is little historical data, were found in some cereal samples but only at levels that imply contamination of UK cereals is minimal.
Levels of heavy metals and pesticides were all within legal limits and did not vary substantially from season to season.
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