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





Brewing Research International, Lyttel Hall, Coopers Hill Road, Redhill, Surrey RH1 4HY



This project has established a system by which published information in the medical, scientific and agricultural press, as well as official information circulated by governmental bodies in the UK, the EU and elsewhere, can be routinely scanned for items relevant to the UK malting industry. Information identified as relevant is communicated to the industry and is also used to guide a detailed surveillance programme for UK-grown malting barley and malt.

This surveillance programme deals only with food safety and health-related parameters. It is not concerned with quality -related parameters such as variety, nitrogen or Hot Water Extract. Representative sample sets of UK malting barley or UK- produced malts, as appropriate, have been collected for each year of the project, with the collaboration of the MAGB. These sample sets have been used for analysis of a wide range of safety-related parameters which are currently an issue in the UK, the EU or in the major export markets for UK malt. These parameters include mycotoxins, pesticides, heavy metals, dioxins, nitrosamines, radionucleides, chloropropanols and (in maltings byproducts destined for animal feed) Salmonella. New analytical methods suitable for cereal matrices have been developed as necessary.

The data obtained, as well as being communicated back to the malting industry and other levy payers via the MAGB's web site, has also been provided to governmental bodies such as the UK's Food Standards Agency and the Pesticides Safety Directorate, and the European Commission, as appropriate.

Some samples have also been analysed for the processing contaminant acrylamide, which was only identified in foodstuffs as recently as May in the final year of this project. As a consequence, funding has now been obtained from the Food Standards Agency for further studies on the mechanism of formation of acrylamide in heated cereals.

The overwhelming majority of the tests carried out support the view that UK malting barley and UK malts are wholesome foodstuffs, and generally contain only very low concentrations of mycotoxins such as ochratoxin A and deoxynivalenol, and pesticide residues, all of which are recognise as potential risks for cereals. In several cases the current surveillance programme has confirmed that concentrations of some contaminants (including arsenic and non-volatile nitrosamines) which were an issue in the past are now much lower than the values published in the literature.

Some issues arose during the duration of the project. Apart from acrylamide, these were mainly related to legislative priorities in the EU, and are described in the text of the report.

Certain other issues have been identified as a direct result of the surveillance carried out. These include potential trends (for example increases in deoxynivalenol, albeit from a very low baseline), analytical problems (variations in replicate analyses within and between different laboratories for lead) and changes in the priorities for pesticide testing.

It is therefore considered to be important for the malting industry that this type of surveillance is continued, and in particular that it continues to be linked to information gathering, so that it is able to adapt rapidly as new issues emerge or older ones gain new prominence.

Some malts have also been analysed for the vitamin folate, which is now thought to be important in protecting against cardiovascular disease and some cancers. These tests indicate that malted cereals could provide a significant dietary source of folate and separate funding has been obtained from the HGCA to explore this further.

HGCA Project Number: 2297
Price: £4.25

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