1 October 1999

Grain lead levels OK

LEAD levels in UK grain can meet the proposed EU limit of 0.1mg/kg, HGCA-funded research suggests. The work follows concern over high lead concentrations found in maltsters surveys of barley in 1996 & 97.

Field sampling by IACR-Rothamsted, ADAS and SAC found levels of 0.01-0.095mg/kg with a mean of 0.053. None of the 25 taken had more than 0.1mg/kg, though two from Scotland and one from Cambridge came close.

Only one of 25 topsoil samples examined contained more than 120mg/kg of lead, the level regarded as contaminated. There was little correlation between soil and grain concentrations.

as total lead in soil does not reflect availability to crops, the researchers note.

More samples will be collected and analysed to provide a more representative picture, says IACRs Steve McGrath. Analytical problems and inadequate sensitivity in the maltsters 1996/97 analysis are thought to account for the initial concern.