Oat growers could face mycotoxin limits

Oat growers could potentially be hit with new rules for mycotoxins amid concerns that dry summers are leading to higher levels of grain contamination.

The European Commission was considering new legislation for the T2 and HT2 mycotoxins on oats, formed by Fusarium langsethiae, said Simon Edwards, professor of plant pathology at Harper Adams University College.

“The commission has requested a response from the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), and subject to this, it may set new legislation,” Prof Edwards confirmed.

European authorities had not agreed any numbers yet, but a limit of 500ppb had previously been suggested, he added. Samples at Harper Adams revealed that 10-15% of UK oats would fail this proposed limit.

He noted, however, that more than 90% of T2 and HT2 were on the hull, therefore limits were not a problem for processed oats.

Oats have the husk taken off in the UK and processors have shown this reduces these mycotoxins by 90% or more.

Oat crops were last monitored seriously for T2 and HT2 mycotoxins in 2007 and 2008, when levels were found to be low after wet harvests, said Prof Edwards.

“These mycotoxins appear to be higher in dry summers – the opposite to DON in wheat where mycotoxin levels increase after wet summers.”

The commission was expected to host a forum early next year and it could set a proposed limit to discuss in advance, said Prof Edwards.

However, any new legislation was unlikely to be introduced before 1 July next year, the beginning of the European harvest, he added. No legal limits exist yet.

Martin Savage, policy trade manager at Nabim, added: “There are lots of groups within the UK, farmer representatives or people like ourselves who do not want a level which will impact on the supply chain and the industry.

“We are all watching this carefully to see what numbers will be proposed and whether this would be a level that would impact the UK crop.”

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