Food and Feed Safety



FOOD SAFETY is an area that attracts increasing attention in today's health conscious world. It is a subject that food manufacturers have to properly address, and the MAGB helps UK maltsters in that task. Companies can test their own raw materials and range of partially processed or finished products, but the MAGB can collate those results and produce an industry wide review. It can also arrange its own sampling and testing regimes, to support those already carried out by maltsters.

DUE DILIGENCE is the approach that any responsible company should follow. To look at any areas of potential risk, and have a system in place to prevent problems occurring. The members of the MAGB have a collaborative survey organised, such that each company contributes samples to an Association pool, and receives the results from the entire survey. A wider picture of the barley crop can be drawn than by each individual company acting alone. The sample schedule for the survey is agreed following a written risk assessment by an independent expert party. Should analysis of any contaminant be a cause for concern, then the MAGB will promptly co-ordinate discussions to ensure that suitable further sampling and corrective actions are taken. In addition, in each crop year the MAGB organises samples of barley and resultant malt to be drawn for due diligence testing at Campden BRI for a further range of potential contaminants. This survey is collaborative with the National Association of British and Irish Millers (nabim), who provide wheat samples, and with the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), who provide feed grain samples. A more comprehensive profile of the UK cereal crop can be seen from this work funded by AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds as part of the task of checking that food safety controls are operating correctly for each crop year in UK grown cereals.

The most recent published report of this information is the HGCA Food safety review of UK cereals grain for use in malting, milling and animal feed with results for crop year 2016. Click here to view

An ASSURANCE value is given to Malt produced under such a protocol, because it gives security to companies who use it in their foods and drinks. Branded food products that have been developed at considerable cost protect their investment as well as their customers by using materials that have been produced under a duly diligent food safety regime.

The MAGB has assisted in such an approach on a range of substances, some that have been avoided or controlled for several years, and some that have only recently had maximum limits set for them. New control limits tend to come into operation as methods of analysis allow ever-smaller amounts of substances to be measured. Care must be taken that limits are only set that reflect a true assessment of risk, not simply the lowest level measurable. There can be naturally occurring levels of some substances in food raw materials, which cannot be reduced.

is a world recognised Standard, accredited to EN45011 that has been developed by UK Maltsters and external consultants.  It is the world's first assurance scheme for malt, and is audited by the external accreditation body, Product Authentication International (PAI).   To view the Assured UK Malt Standard click here.


RISK ASSESSMENT. The MAGB has drawn up a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Guide which is based on expert assessment of potential food safety risks, and their safe control during the malting process, to ensure food safety requirements are always met for UK malt.


An example of what today's testing is capable of, and the ever-lower limits being used is shown below:


Using Gas Chromatography to test for milligrams of substance per kilo of material (mg/kg) is equivalent to one corn of barley in a 50 kilogram sack full of grain





Using HPLC to test for micrograms of substance per kilo of material (µg/kg) is equivalent to one corn of barley in 50 tonnes of grain



Using immuno-techniques for nanograms of substance per kilo of material (ng/kg) is equivalent to one corn of barley in 50,000 tonnes of grain.




Pesticides cannot be used on malt, but a very narrow range of pesticides is acceptable by brewers and distillers for use on the growing cereals and the stored grain. Other pesticides are accepted only for use on storage areas. Only pesticides listed on the BBPA Approved Agrochemicals list can be used on barley, and the list shows which pesticides are approved for what purpose, as well as the maximum residual levels of the chemical that can remain in the grain. Campden BRI (Nutfield site) has been testing agro-chemicals that might be used by malting barley growers and storers for many years. UK maltsters specify that only products that have been accepted by BBPA/Campden-BRI can be used on grain sold to them.


Every load of grain supplied to UK maltings has to carry its own "pesticide passport" to declare if pesticide has been used on any stage of the grain post harvest, and if it has, what type, the application rate, and when it was applied. No grain is accepted without this declaration.

Spot loads are then tested at intake to the maltsters store, to ensure that the information given on the pesticide passport is correct, and that the maximum residual level of pesticide (if it is found to be present) is not exceeded. MAGB has also had carried out a few spot tests for a very wide range of pesticides, most of which were not approved for use on malting barley in the UK. Excellent results showing nil or very low residual levels of permitted pesticides have been found, and there has been no detection of the use of excluded pesticides.

Click here for a short report on pesticide tests on UK malting barley.

HEAVY METALS (Lead, Cadmium)
The MAGB has also tested for heavy metals levels in its raw materials for several years. Such substances are only likely to be found in the finished malt if they come in with the raw material, malting barley. The heavy metals tested for have included zinc, copper, lead and cadmium. Lead and cadmium can be found in some soil, and hence could be taken up into the growing barley crop. The MAGB survey work shows that this has not been a problem for UK malting barley, and that there are no problems of heavy metal contamination in malt made in the UK

Click here for short report on MAGB heavy metal survey work.

NDMA (Nitrosodimethylamine)
Following the discovery in the 1970s of NDMA in beer, MAGB members have implemented a voluntary code to monitor and report on levels in malt, as well as developing best practice to reduce the formation of the compounds during kilning.

NDMA is formed as a result of nitrosylation by NOx gases of amino-acids on the surface of malted grain. Control may be achieved by reduction of NOx levels in drying gases, often by indirect firing or the use of low-NOx burners, or by reducing the pH of the grain surface. 

Malts are regularly tested by malting companies for NDMA formation, and the MAGB collates their members' thousands of test results over the years to demonstrate due diligence action. 

To view the full results of MAGB NDMA testing carried out on malts made from the 2004 crop barley onwards Click Here

Mycotoxins (In particular Ochratoxin A)
Recently attention has turned to the ability of some fungi on food raw materials to produce mycotoxins, which can be toxic to humans if consumed in significant quantities. Harmonised European legislation is being introduced to limit the level of mycotoxins in foods.

There are two types of fungi/mould that can infect cereal crops, one is field fungi on the growing crops in the field, and the other is storage fungi.

Field fungi are easily avoided by the maltsters; they can be visually detected, which leads to an automatic rejection of the grain as not being suitable for malting. Fusarium moulds are common field fungi on growing cereal crops, and do little damage to the plants themselves. However, under certain conditions they can also produce a range of toxins.

Storage fungi are less likely be present on grain at intake to maltings, unless the grain has been held for some period under poor stored conditions. Storage mould or fungi can develop if the grain is poorly stored above 14.5% moisture over an extended period of time, particularly if the grain temperature is high. Damp, badly aerated grain is a high-risk area for fungi growth, with the subsequent risk of toxin production. If storage moulds are present in grain at 17.0% moisture or above, then there is a risk that the combination of time, temperature and moisture could be sufficient for the mould to start producing toxins. A limit of 5 parts per billion in barley has been set by the EU legislators for the storage mould toxin, Ochratoxin A.

Storage fungi information

Ochratoxin A is the mycotoxin most likely to be produced by Aspergillus and Penicillium fungi on grain grown in Europe. This is less toxic than Aflatoxin, which may occur on maize, sorghum and other cereals in sub tropical and tropical parts of the world.

The UK system of taking barley from the harvest field and drying it before storage has always been used to keep grain "sweet" and protect its germinative capacity.  Long-term grain storage in the UK is usually at around 12% moisture content in the grain, as it has been proved by experts at CSL that in order to protect the germ in long term grain storage to 98% capacity and above the grain moisture should not exceed 13%.  These two factors in UK malting operations also prevent the development of any mould, and hence any mycotoxin.  The importance of avoiding long term storage of grain above 14.5% has only recently been signalled, but the MAGB has been testing UK barley for Ochratoxin A since 1994.  As long ago as 1885 Mr H Stopes was urging UK maltsters only to buy barley with its own clean, identifiable odour, and to avoid all other smells on the grain. Excellent practical advice, long before the potential problem of mycotoxins was known!

UK tests results over the years have shown that Mr Stopes' advice, and UK maltsters' storage practices have ensured that grain free from mould infection has been used, and that there is no mycotoxin risk from using malt produced in the UK.

Field Fungi information
Although maltsters barley intake procedures should avoid the intake of grain infected with field fungi, the MAGB has tested for the toxins deoxynivalenol (DON), nivalenol (NIV) and zearaleone (ZEA) that can be produced by field fungi, to show maltsters diligence in this matter.  The tests were done on malts to ensure that the finished product met the likely limits that the EU is considering introducing.  Only very small traces of these compounds were detected, well below the EU proposed action levels, and substantially less than has been reported in the growing barley crop.

For more information on due diligence work on mycotoxins Click Here

There will be a continual increase in the knowledge of what makes food safe, and there will be an ever-greater emphasis placed on what makes certain foods more beneficial in the diet than was previously realised.  The MAGB will continue its important task of helping UK maltsters show how diligent they are in meeting food safety requirements.

The AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Food Safety and Due Diligence work, carried out by crop year, on Malting Barley and UK made Malt is an important part of the industries coverage of Food Safety and Due Diligence. The MAGB and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds work closely together on issues that are of interest for Food Safety of UK Malt made from UK Malting Barley. For more information on AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds click on the logo below.

   CLICK HERE to view an AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds funded research report on Ensuring that UK cereals used in malting, milling and animal feed achieve food and feed safety standards

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