Research on fortifying UK wheat with selenium through the use of fertilisers has been encouraging, according to project leader Dr Martin Broadley.

The project, dubbed BAGELS, is a “farm to fork” project sponsored by DEFRA and aimed at establishing whether selenium-containing fertilisers can be used without damaging the environment.

According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) selenium plays an important role in the function of the immune system and is also “part of the body’s antioxidant defence system”. But while recommended daily intake for men is 0.075 mg and 0.06mg for women, actual intake for the population is reportedly less than half these levels.

Alex Waugh, director general of the National Association of British and Irish Millers, said that substantial quantities of selenium-rich wheat from North America had not been used in UK milling for 15 years.

He said introducing selenium via fertilisers had been tried in Finland and that it would be “worth trying to see if it makes a difference here”.

Dr Broadley said it would be “a tremendous achievement for the UK cereals industry” if this proved a successful way to boost selenium intake to recommended levels.