The term heavy metals is used to describe a range of metals including copper, zinc, lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury. Heavy metals are stable and are naturally found in soils where they may accumulate and can be taken up into crops and thereby enter the food chain. Whilst, as trace elements, some heavy metals are essential to maintain the correct functioning of the human body, very high concentrations are generally toxic.
UK flour millers are aware of the issue and contribute wheat samples to the AHDB monitoring project, where they are analysed for the presence of heavy metals. The results show that wheat used by UK millers is not a significant source of heavy metals. The levels of the most toxic heavy metals remain low and well below the EU maximum levels.
Data collected by the FSA, since 1976, in the UK Total Diet Study continues to show that heavy metals measured in a range of foods, including bread, are well within the safety limits set.