Monitoring of contaminants in UK cereals used for processing food and animal feed (2016–22)


Cereals & Oilseeds
Project code:
01 August 2016 - 01 July 2023
AHDB sector cost:
Project leader:


21130040 – annual project report 2023 21130040 – mycotoxin results for harvest 2022 21130040 – annual project report 2022 21130040 – annual project report 2021 21130040 – mycotoxin results for harvest 2021 21130040 – results for harvest 2020 21130040 – annual project report 2020 21130040 – results for harvest 2019 21130040 – annual project report 2019 21130040 – results for harvest 2018 21130040 – annual project report 2018 21130040 – annual project report 2017

About this project

The challenge

Food and feed industries rely on consumer confidence. For the UK grain supply chain to remain competitive, it needs to maintain its reputation for compliance and quality. AHDB is highly valued for its independent work on monitoring agro-chemical residues and contaminants since the mid-1980s. Industry consultations have highlighted:

  1. The importance of monitoring contaminants in cereals to provide customer confidence.
  2. The need to help the UK grain supply chain prepare for new legislation and growing demands on supply.

The project

This project will conduct an annual survey of the incidence and levels of key mycotoxins (e.g. DON, ZON, T2/HT2, OTA and ergot alkaloids) and other contaminants (e.g. pesticides, heavy metals, CIPC and PAHs)  in representative commercial samples of UK-grown wheat, barley and oats and co-products (wheatfeed and oatfeed) and store samples as archive material. The data on the incidence and levels of key contaminants will be used to inform and alert the cereal industry on the safety of their products and inform discussions on impending revision of legislation. Current and emerging legislation and contaminant issues, which could impact on the safety of cereal-based foods and their acceptability in key home and overseas markets, will also be monitored as part of the project. 

The benefits

This project is an important part of providing effective quality assurance for the main UK cereals and their co-products. It provides an independent monitoring scheme for agrochemical residues and other contaminants. Sitting alongside industry-led assurance schemes, this work demonstrates that UK cereals for human consumption and animal feed are independently monitored and found to comply with EU and UK legislation.

Mycotoxin results for harvest 2022 

Results from the project’s analytical tests showed that, in general, harvest 2022 was associated with low mycotoxin levels in the cereals and cereal co-products tested.

In fact, the tests resulted in the lowest DON and ZON levels recorded in the current project phase (started in 2016).

Industry screening test results corroborated these findings.

Combined T-2 and HT-2 levels were similar to other years for food oats, although slightly above the seven-year (2016–22) average for feed oats and below it for oatfeed.

Ergot alkaloid levels in most products (excluding some feed wheat and malting barley) were lower than 2021.

No sample exceeded any maximum permitted levels.

Download the harvest 2022 report

Note: Project extended to 2023.


Watch a presentation on this work from the 2023 Agronomy Conference

Read about this project in Crop Production Magazine.

An eye on visible and subtle threats (2023)

Monitoring of contaminants in UK cereals used for processing food and animal feed (2016)