The assessment of barley at the point of delivery to a maltings or a store is a critical process that helps to secure the food safety assurance of the supply chain of malt into beers, whiskies and foodstuffs. It is also a control and check for the commercial transaction of grain supply to the maltster.
Food safety checks which are carried out at this point are mostly on a due diligence basis, reflecting the excellent work already in place with growers in producing assured barley by good agricultural practices. The frequency of these tests is determined by risk-analysis, and can be varied from season to season to reflect changes to the assessment of risk.
Checks include testing for the mycotoxins which may be present on malting barley, and particularly those for which a Maximum Limit is imposed by the EU – such as deoxynivalenol and zearalenone – and those which are of interest for potential future legislative control, such as T-2 and HT-2.
The European Commission (EC) has a schedule of additional mycotoxins to be considered for legal controls over the next few years, and UK maltsters will work with their continental European colleagues to assist their considerations.
There is current EC interest in the alkaloids of ergot. UK maltsters have maintained records of rejection for the physical presence of the sclerotia of ergot, but have little information on the presence of alkaloids. Survey work is being conducted on 2011 barleys: in parallel, UK flour millers are also surveying samples of wheat.
In addition to the declaration of post-harvest treatment which is on the passport accompanying each load of barley, random checks are carried out for agrochemicals and storage pesticides. These are on a collaborative basis, such that UK maltsters exchange results to give a more comprehensive picture to each malting company of the UK barley harvest. Heavy metals are also subject to surveillance.