Prevent ochratoxin A in stored grain

Toxicity of ochratoxin A

Ochratoxin A is a mycotoxin that can cause health problems, such as kidney damage, in people and animals. A mycotoxin is a toxin produced by fungi that grow in certain conditions. Ochratoxin A can be found in cereal grains and other food products like coffee, grapes and pork. Keeping ochratoxin A out of grain is crucial to maintaining Canada’s reputation for exporting safe, high quality grain.

Prevent ochratoxin A

You can prevent ochratoxin A using the same practices you already use to keep your grain in good condition during storage: keep temperature and moisture content low and aerate your grain regularly.

What are safe moisture levels for your crop? The Official Grain Grading Guide’s specifications for dry grain are:

  • barley - malting: 13.5% moisture or less
  • barley - food, covered: 13.5% moisture or less
  • barley - food, hulless: 14.0% moisture or less
  • barley - general purpose, covered and hulless: 14.8% moisture or less
  • wheat (all classes): 14.5% moisture or less
  • oats (all classes): 13.5% moisture or less

Conditions for ochratoxin A development

In Canada, a fungus called Penicillium verrucosum produces ochratoxin A. It develops in stored grain if temperature and moisture content are above the recommended safe storage guidelines for that grain. Ochratoxin A and the fungus that produces it don’t cause visible damage to grain and can’t be detected through visual inspection.

Limits for ochratoxin A in grain exports

For many countries, the maximum allowable limit of ochratoxin A in grain is just five parts per billion. Buyers of Canadian grain use technology that can test for ochratoxin A at these very low concentrations.

Data collected each year from our monitoring program shows that the levels of ochratoxin A in Canada’s grain are generally below these strict international limits. More than two decades of monitoring showed that the average amount of ochratoxin A in samples tested was less than one part per billion.

Contact us

Sheryl Tittlemier PhD
Program Manager, Trace Organic Analysis
Telephone: 204-984-3456
E-mail: sheryl.tittlemier@grainscanada.gc.ca

Melonie Stoughton
HACCP Technical Advisor
Telephone: 204-983-3635
E-mail: melonie.stoughton@grainscanada.gc.ca

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