Ensuring the safety of our raw materials
From open fields to the mill
At all times it needs to be remembered that wheat is a food ingredient used to make a whole range of foodstuffs. It is therefore essential that wheat supplied to millers meets their requirements as well as any contract specifications. Besides, as the crop is grown in open fields, millers check every delivery of agricultural raw materials for any food safety hazards and rejecting wheat, rye or oat which is not suitable.
Plant nutrition & protection products
All crops require optimum nutrition to grow well. Plants will extract naturally occurring nutrients from the soil but in order to produce crops of the highest quality, farmers apply fertilisers. They will normally use Sulphur which assists in the formation of strong gluten and also limits the formation of asparagine (the precursor of acrylamide), urea or calcium ammonium nitrate.
But the crop is also host to a wide range of fungal pathogens or diseases and pests that attack and damage cereals. Farmers will normally use:
- Herbicides to help reduce competition for resources so that the crop thrives
- Fungicides, which help to protect crops from attack by disease such as mildew and fusarium, which can both damage the crop quality and reduce the yield
- Pesticides, which may be used if crops are attacked by slugs or insects such as aphids. However, these tend to be used only when there is a risk of major attack
Pesticides (chemical and non-chemical) are essential for food production. Even in organic farming, a limited range of pesticides are allowed. There are however Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) and EU pesticide laws are the strictest in the world.
Grains represent a significant source of food-borne contaminants, the main ones being mycotoxins but also heavy metals (cadmium and lead). Whole grains usually contain more contaminants than refined products, although they also provide more nutrients which are good for health. Strict regulatory thresholds aim to minimise the risk of contaminants to public health and millers take great care to apply them.
Monitoring and studies
The European Flour Millers are regularly sharing the results of their internal monitoring with the services of the European Commission.
When required, they are used to participate to scientific reports prepared by the Academic and independant bodies and submitted to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to assess the occurence of contaminants in cereals and cereal products. These reports are subsequently used to carry out a risk assessment before possible legislation by the European Commission.