Review of food safety issues relating to the supply and market acceptability of UK malting barley and UK malt


Cereals & Oilseeds
Project code:
01 October 2002 - 30 September 2004
AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.
AHDB sector cost:
£98,188 from the Home-Grown Cereals Authority (Project 2804).
Project leader:
D Baxter Lyttel Hall, Coopers Hill Road, Redhill, Surrey RH1 4HY



About this project


The aims of this project were:

  1. to provide reassurance that UK grown malting barleys, and the malts prepared from them, complied with EU and UK law relating to safety and wholesomeness.
  2. to establish a robust data set which could be used on behalf of growers and processors in any negotiations with official organisations such as the UK's Food Standards Agency or the European Food Safety Authority.
  3. to identify any emerging issues which might have an effect either on the wholesomeness of UK cereals and cereal products, or on the perception of wholesomeness by customers and consumers, and to initiate responses as appropriate.

The project included barleys from the 2002 harvest up to and inclusive of the 2005 harvest. One set of barley samples was collected soon after harvest. This set was representative of (a) commercial malting companies in the UK, (b) malting barley varieties on the market, and (c) the main growing regions for malting barley in the UK. These samples were mainly tested for the presence of mycotoxins produced by Fusarium moulds (for example, deoxynivalenol (DON)).

Another set of samples was collected around March-April, and included both barleys (which had been stored for approximately 6-8 months after harvest) and the commercial malt made from each batch of barley. These sets were sampled according to the rigorous protocol set by the European Commission for Official Control of non-homogenous contaminants such as ochratoxin A in cereals.

These sample sets were tested for mycotoxins produced by moulds which can grow on stored grain (for example, ochratoxin A), as well as for pesticides, growth regulators and other potential contaminants of raw and processed cereals.

Over the duration of the project, no samples exceeded legal limits for Fusarium mycotoxins, ochratoxin A, pesticides or growth regulators.

The majority of samples, either barley or malt, did not contain detectable Fusarium mycotoxins. When they were found, DON was detected most frequently, but at levels well below the legal limit introduced in the EU in 2005. The related toxin nivalenol was detected infrequently. T-2 and HT-2 toxins were not detected at all during the first 2 years of the project, but were found at low levels in several samples of barley from the 2005 harvest.

Similarly, the majority of samples did not contain detectable ochratoxin A. Stored samples were more likely to test positive than freshly harvested ones, and malts tended to contain slightly higher levels than raw barleys.

Most samples tested contained growth regulators (chlormequat and/or mepiquat) but at low levels. The post-harvest insecticide pirimiphos-methyl was detected at trace levels in some samples. The fungicide cyprodinil was also detected occasionally at trace levels.

The data accumulated by this project supports the image of UK-grown malting barley as a safe and wholesome cereal, which complies with existing limits for contaminants. The data will also be used to inform discussions relating to the setting of new limits by the Commission.