UK – In an effort to safeguard consumers from potential health risks, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) have launched a nationwide data collection initiative to assess the levels of T-2 and HT-2 toxins in food.

Mycotoxins, produced by certain fungi, can pose a threat to human health, and their presence in cereal crops, such as oats, wheat, and barley, has become a growing concern.

The agencies are now calling upon stakeholders throughout the cereals supply chain to contribute vital data on these toxins, with a submission deadline of 31 October 2023.

T-2 and HT-2 toxins are known to be produced under cool and moist conditions before harvest by the fusarium species of fungi, making cereal crops particularly vulnerable.

The levels of these toxins can exhibit significant variability from year to year, heavily influenced by weather conditions. Currently, there are limited methods to mitigate their production through good agricultural practices (GAPs) due to their climate dependence.

The primary goal of this data collection initiative is to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment and analyze consumer exposure to T-2 and HT-2 toxins through the risk analysis process.

By gathering information on toxin levels at various stages of the supply chain, from the field to the retail level, FSA and FSS aim to identify potential risk factors and inform future risk management advice.

The agencies are particularly interested in data regarding unprocessed grain from the farm, mill intake post-cleaning, post-dehulling, after processing (including kilning, steel cutting, steaming, flaking, etc.), finished products, and even imported goods.

They encourage the submission of data spanning multiple years to account for annual variations in toxin levels.

To ensure comprehensive data collection, additional information such as the location of sampling in the supply chain (processed or unprocessed), and the geographical region of sampling, is welcomed.

It is crucial to note that all data collected will be aggregated and published anonymously, safeguarding the identities of individuals, businesses, trade bodies, and organizations involved. This approach aims to foster transparency while facilitating candid contributions.

The call for data will not only enhance our understanding of the presence of T-2 and HT-2 toxins in food but also provide valuable insights into potential risk management strategies.

The FSA and FSS remain committed to upholding the highest food safety standards and protecting the well-being of consumers. By engaging stakeholders across the cereals supply chain, the agencies hope to fortify their risk assessment process, enabling timely and effective measures to mitigate any potential hazards.

Through this collaborative effort, the UK continues to demonstrate its dedication to ensuring food safety, paving the way for evidence-based policies that safeguard public health and well-being.

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