Odds are you don’t know much about Ochratoxin A, but this mycotoxin has big implications for Canadian cereal grains. Ochratoxin A, also called OTA, is produced by a fungus during grain storage. It has long affected many commodities, but more countries are now establishing maximum levels for OTA in grains and in food products. Health Canada is proposing the same thing. Grains like wheat and durum would have a maximum OTA level of 5 parts per billion, while directly consumed grains like oats would be 3 parts per billion. A part per billion is one second in 32years. A part per billion is also the equivalent of a single one inch slice of pepperoni on a pizza the size of Texas. It’s difficult to sample for OTA in a grain cargo because one fungus infested kernel can be high while the kernel beside it has nothing. Plus, there’s no quick, accurate test and there’s no visual way to gauge OTA. Scientist agree that at high enough levels OTA can cause birth defects, compromise the immune system and that it’s a potential carcinogen. However, at low levels, scientists do not agree on whether it’s a significant threat. There are a lot of unanswered questions on OTA and the pending Health Canada limits could cause headaches for farmers, grain buyers and the processors of our grain. I’m Kevin Hursh.