Farmers Cautioned About Risk of Mycotoxins and Allergens Showing Up in Food

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A spokesperson for Canada’s baking industry suggests grain farmers will face increased scrutiny unless further mitigation practices to prevent the presence of mycotoxins and allergens in grain are implemented.

“There are issues about mycotoxins and adventious presence (of allergens) that producers need to become engaged on,” said Paul Hetherington, CEO of the Baking Association of Canada, at the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Convention in Winnipeg earlier this month. “Most of the engagement right now is further on in the supply chain, but producers need to be in the room because these issues are being created either on-farm or in the grain transportation system.”

What is Ochratoxin A?
OTA is a mycotoxin found in cereal grains
and a variety of other food products like
coffee or grapes. Research has shown that
OTA can cause health problems in people
and animals. It develops after harvest while
grain is in storage only if temperature and
moisture content are high enough.
Fortunately, data collected each year by the
Canadian Grain Commission shows that
the levels of OTA in Canada’s grain are
generally below international limits.
(Canadian Grain Commission)

Concerns for end-users selling baked and cereal products to consumers include the presence of ochratoxin A and allergens such as soy and mustard.

Related: Still Good for You — Research Counters Popular Claims About Wheat’s Nutritional Value

Hetherington even went as far as to invoke the impact BSE had on the beef industry as an example of the damage that a food safety issue in grain could cause. Amplifying the risk is the chance that with social media, consumer reaction to the presence of mycotoxins, such as OTA, might not be science-based, he noted.

“We are one catastrophic event away from huge scrutiny,” he told the audience.

“We would all of a sudden find ourselves in a situation where it explodes. It would explode with government, with consumers in the social media space, and it becomes a situation that we can’t control,” he says in the video below. “So we want to be aggressively involved in proactive measures. Let’s look at how we can do this mitigation — best practices, better storage methodology, cleaning bins, how we can go about doing it so we eliminate the possibilities as much as feasible.”

While some farmers are already participating in on-farm food safety programs (such as ExcelGrains), Hethering said producers will be expected to demonstrate that they’ve taken steps to mitigate food risks.

He discusses why he thinks this should be a priority for grain growers, what incentives there are for producers and whether regulatory changes (ie. a maximum threshold for OTA) are needed:

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