This year’s wet harvest could increase risk of mycotoxins in cereals, including storage mycotoxin ochratoxin A (OTA).
The presence of ochratoxin A is regarded as a food safety issue. And while ochratoxin A is generally detected only at low concentrations in cereals, with values typically at levels at, or just above the limit of detection, isolated higher results have been seen over the last few years, according to the British Oats and Barley Millers Association (BOBMA).
Supported by the National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers (NABIM) and MAGB (Maltsters Association of Great Britain), BOBMA is reminding farmers, merchants and the wider supply chain of the importance of effective grain store management to manage the issue.
BOBMA recommends following best practice procedures described in the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) ‘UK Code of Good Storage Practice to Reduce Ochratoxin A in Cereals’.
In particular, attention should be given to the accurate calibration and use of moisture meters, says BOBMA, particularly portable or ‘hand held’ meters which are prone to error if not operated within manufacturer guidelines.
The FSA code advises that if grain is rapidly dried to below 18 per cent moisture content, then further dried to 15 per cent moisture content and maintained below this level then the risk of ochratoxin A contamination is reduced.
If conditions are not conducive to bulk drying of grain or there is a backlog of damp grain to be dried using a hot-air drier then grain should be cooled to increase the safe storage period until the grain can be dried, it says.
The reason more ochratoxin A is being found could be because mills are doing more testing, says managing director Douglas Veitch of John Hogarth, oatmeal and pearl barley miller. “The maximum level is 5ppb. If a load is downgraded, farmers will lose their premium as the cereal will not be able to go for malting or milling.”
NFU chief adviser combinable crops Jack Watts says this harvest, because it has been wet, is likely to be riskier than last in terms of mycotoxins. “It comes down to careful store management and getting grain to safe moisture levels as efficiently as possible, getting it cooled and careful monitoring.”
Paul Rooke of Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) says: “Certainly harvesting at higher moistures raises the risk but that risk can still be mitigated by good drying and storage practice.
“AHDB has a safe storage calculator which allows you to determine the safe storage time for higher moisture intakes and to understand how swiftly you need to move moistures down to safer longer term levels. Working with these sorts of tools should minimise any risks, as will maintaining good overall store hygiene and structural condition.”
For more information visit: www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/media/document/ochratoxinacop.pdf