Heavy Metals

Due diligence survey for potentially toxic elements (heavy metals)

The UK Malting Industry is committed to ensuring that its products conform to the highest quality and safety standards. It therefore works to hold levels of contaminants, which are not always avoidable in agricultural crops, to levels which are as low as possible.

Heavy metals, in particular lead and to a lesser extent cadmium, can be taken up by the growing plant from the soil, or can be deposited on to the grain from traffic fumes and other pollution in the air. Lead in food can accumulate in the body and cause harmful effects. Governments across the world have tried to reduce the amounts of these metals in foodstuffs. The use of lead-free petrol has resulted in a decline in contamination of foodstuffs, which allowed the legal maximum limit (ML) in the EU to be lowered from 2 mg/kg to the current limit of 0.2 mg/kg from April 2002.

In the UK, the Malting Industry has monitored its raw materials for lead and cadmium over many years. The results confirm that levels of these heavy metals in UK malting barleys are well below the current legal limit and have been declining over the past five years, due largely to the reduction of lead emissions from vehicles. Levels are now often below the detection limit for lead.

The chart below shows mean lead content in malting barley by crop year in recent years. (Source MAGB)


The low levels of Cadmium, where it has been detectable, have also been reassuring.

Tests have also been carried out to check full compliance is being maintained on a range of other heavy metals, including Zinc, Copper, Mercury and Arsenic.  To view click here