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Department launches Code of Practice on the Prevention and Reduction of Fusarium Mycotoxins in Cereals

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, today announced the publication of a Code of Practice on the Prevention and Reduction of Fusarium Mycotoxins in Cereals. The code highlights good agricultural practice regarding the growing and harvesting of cereal crops, and also in relation to handling and storing grain after harvest.

The code is based on an EU Commission Recommendation aimed at reducing Fusarium mycotoxin levels across the entire EU. Maximum permitted levels for Fusarium mycotoxin contamination are set for cereal and cereal products in food, and guidance levels are established for animal feed.

The code is a practical guide for cereal farmers aimed at reducing Fusarium mycotoxin levels in home grown Irish cereals, and accordingly, it is being distributed by mail-shot to all cereal growers in the country. The Department has monitored mycotoxin levels nationally over the past four years and mycotoxin levels in our home-grown cereals are low. However, the Department emphasised the need for all cereal growers to be vigilant on this issue and it is hoped the code would encourage a further reduction in overall levels found.

The Code was drawn up by the Department in collaboration with Teagasc, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, the Irish Farmers Association, the Irish Grain and Feed Association and the Irish Grain Assurance Scheme.

Additional copies of the Code of Practice can be obtained from any of the above organisations.

26 June, 2007

NOTE FOR EDITORS

What are mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are toxins produced by fungi. Where temperature and mositure conditions are suitable, fungi grow, and mycotoxin levels on growing crops and grain in storage can increase. These mycotoxins are produced by several species of Fusarium fungi which infect the grain of developing cereals. The mycotoxins produced include the fumonisins, the trichothecenes, (including deoxynivalenol), and zearalenone. Fusarium infected grains appear pink in colour. However, the level of mycotoxin in grain does not always correspond to the the level of visible fusarium infection on the cereal crop.

Mycotoxins have been shown to cause sickness and diarrhoea in animals, with resultant reduction in feed intake and thrive.

Date Released: 26 June 2007