In addition to providing information to the barley growers on the varieties that the malt market needs, UK maltsters also take great care to ensure that the barley that they take into their sites is stored not only by separate variety, but also by protein content within each segregation. Further information on this is given in Controlling the intake of malting barley for malt production.
The UK malting industry’s due diligence on food safety compliance in maltsters’ raw material
Great care is taken with the purchase and the intake of barley to the maltsters’ storage. Long standing practice has been to ensure that the grain has the correct ‘nose’, that is the unique smell of fresh and correctly stored grain. Any taint to that smell, particularly any fustiness, is likely to mean a rejection of the load by the maltster, as it could indicate the presence of storage mould on the grain.
This could impact on quality in two ways:
- The germination of the grain, and hence its ability to be changed into malt, could be below the 98% required by the maltster. The germinative capacity test carried out before each load is accepted would quickly show if that is a problem.
- If the taint is due to storage moulds, this is likely because the grain has been stored badly. Storage moulds such as Aspergillus can produce mycotoxins under adverse storage conditions, particularly if the grain moisture is above 14%.
When mycotoxins were first mentioned as a possible health hazard in 1998, the UK malting industry was quick to check that it was removing any possibility of mycotoxins being introduced with its raw material, malting barley. It quickly found that the simple ‘nose’ test, introduced by maltsters over 100 years ago, coupled with the UKs ability, and practice, of drying barley down below 14.5% before long term storage meant there was no problem. A series of MAGB coordinated sampling and testing regimes has underlined the effectiveness of that diligent control.
The MAGB coordinates other testing for food safety issues, for example to ensure that the maximum legal levels for heavy metals in UK malting barley, and hence malt, are not exceeded.