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Guidelines to minimise the risk of erucic acid in double-low oilseed rape

Higher than expected levels of erucic acid have been found in seed grown from double-low oilseed rape varieties. These guidelines highlight the key risk points where management of erucic acid levels can make a difference.

Most oilseed rape (OSR) varieties grown in the UK are classified as ‘double-low’ – also called ‘double-zero’ and ‘00’. Such varieties have a low erucic acid content, making seeds suitable for both human and animal consumption.

Some OSR varieties grown in the UK have been bred to have relatively high levels of erucic acid – HEAR (high erucic acid rape) and other specialist oil compositions.

Erucic acid is a naturally occurring fatty acid found in both OSR and related species (including several weed species associated with arable systems).

For rapeseed oil to be used in food products, erucic acid levels must, by law, not exceed 5 per cent. The current maximum level in most contracts is set to 2 per cent. The European Commission plans to change the legal food standard to 2 per cent, which may come into force as early as autumn 2018.

Over the last three years, higher than expected levels of erucic acid have been found in seed grown from double-low varieties, with some deliveries exceeding both the 2 and 5 per cent limits.

With standards becoming tighter, it is essential to minimise erucic acid in double-low OSR to meet standards and avoid penalties or rejections.

These guidelines highlight the key risk points where management can make a difference. They also provide information on record keeping, sampling and the tests required to investigate any exceedance of legal and/or contractual limits.


The following organisations contributed to the development of the guide:

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) The British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB) The National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) The National Farmers Union (NFU) NIAB The Seed Crushers and Oil Processors Association (SCOPA)

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Risk points

#1 – Seed source

#2 – Pre-planting

#3 – Established crop (weeds and volunteers)

#4 – Harvest

#5 – Contracts

The erucic acid problem

Finding a solution to a problem is almost impossible when the cause hasn’t been established. CPM takes a look at the latest research into elevated erucic acid in rapeseed and how this has resulted in new advice to growers.

The erucic acid problem (CPM article, July 2019)

Investigation of high levels of erucic acid in consignments of double-zero oilseed rape varieties (AHDB research report, February 2019)

Read an article on erucic acid in the Autumn/Winter edition of Grain Outlook (p. 14-15)