FSA calls for views on fusarium shakeup

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wheat

The UK's Food Standards Agency Scottish arm has given the country's
food manufacturers until 16 October to comment on latest amendments
on regulations concerning the presence of fusarium toxins in
their products.

The comments could be vital in ensuring that new regulations are implemented without being detrimental to food manufacturing operations. New proposals for regulating fusarium toxins in maize and maize products came into place this week, after the Eu's food safety agency agreed to set new legal limits across the bloc in July, relating to weekly intake. This followed on from a previous amendment in 2006. With the restriction retroactively in place since July, the FSA added that it would not be opening formal consultation on the issue, though still welcomed comments on how best to impose the rules nationally. The UK-specific guide sets out new codes of practice that have been developed in response to these EU recommendations. The guide advises farmers to avoid intense rotations of crops such as maize, wheat, barley and oats, which are the prime hosts of the fusarium fungi, a cause of one type of mycotoxin. Grain stores should be well designed and maintained, with good ventilation and air flow, and temperature, moisture content and insect activity should be checked on a regular basis, the guide stated. Mycotoxins can get into the human food supply as a result of the growth of specific fungi on food crops, either in the field or in storage. The toxin is produced as a byproduct of the fungi. ​The OTA mycotoxin is found in cereals, cereal products, cocoa products, nuts, spices and coffee. The EU legal limit for mycotoxins in finished products such as bread and breakfast cereals is 500 parts per billion. Flour may contain 750ppb, and the limit for unprocessed wheat is 1,250ppb, according to EU studies. OTA usually accumulates in the liver, and the EU limit of Tolerable Weekly Intake (TWI) is 120 ng per kg body weight for the compound. The FSA will distribute the guide to over 43,000 cereal farmers in England, with separate distributions across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Even a mild bout of microtoxins can cost growers up to 25 per cent of their yield and, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), world losses of food stuffs due to mycotoxins can reach up to 1,000 million tonnes per year. It is a particular worry for bakery firms as mycotoxin remains stable during processing and, if found in the raw grain, can reoccur in foods containing wheat flour. Last year Italian authorities confiscated 58,000 tonnes of Canadian durum wheat destined for pasta production at the port of Bari. Police also arrested Francesco Casillo, the head of Molino Casillo, one of Europe's largest millers. The arrest followed the discovery that wheat imported from Canada had three times the allowable limit of ocratoxin, a carcinogenic mycotoxin.

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