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01/09/2017

Fusarium and Shrivelled Grains in Milling Wheat

This harvest had been fast and furious together with being long and tiring due to the weather.

One of our early concerns was that the Milling Wheat which we were delivering to our store showed signs of high levels of Fusarium.

Fusarium is caused by a range of factors including ear blight infection caused during the flowering period. Later infections may result in infection of the grains but without obvious bleaching of the endosperm. The ear blight phase of the disease can cause yield loss but is most important as it can result in mycotoxin being produced. These mycotoxins, commonly DON,  are toxic and so levels in grain, flour and flour products are strictly controlled by EU Regulations. It is a term in which we trade that the EU Regulations are incorporated into all contracts for the sale of these types of goods.

Our customers are extremely strict on the level of Fusarium, either pink, white or shrivelled grains, and while a DON test may give an acceptable result, a sample containing a high amount of Fusarium can be seen visably and is therefore susceptible to be rejected. The AIC 1/16 Contract on which we all buy and sell grains specifically states that goods need to be free of mould and expressly incorporates the Sale of Goods Act 1979 which gives warranty over the goods being of satisfactory quality and fitness for purpose. This is in addition to the customers’ own terms on which we trade.

Fengrain are proud to supply many customers that mill our grain into flour for human food consumption. We importantly supply ex store grain on vendor assurance so the onus is permanently on us to supply within customer specifications and perform the contracts to our best ability.

Our policy is always to try to support the grower and storage members. However after consultation with trade bodies and our customers it has become clear that the visual assessment on grains had to take precedent over the DON or other mycotoxin result.

To this end we set an early testing policy which was fairly lenient to ensure that we did not reject for Fusarium, unlike some mills, where the contamination was relatively minor. The contamination cannot be at high levels or it will prejudice the Milling Wheat already in and being delivered to store. Ultimately, we need to ensure that the Milling Wheat in store is not susceptible to being rejected when it is finally delivered to our customers.

We have therefore continued with this policy. If grain contains a high level of Fusarium, whether that be pink, white or shrivelled grains, they run the possibility of being downgraded to feed; our trading team have set these levels and will have visually assessed most downgraded grain and all border line issues at the time of delivery. Unfortunately our monochrome colour sorter is unable to deal with this type of defect in the goods.

Our priority is always food safety and to maximise the value of members’ grain.

Robert Munro

Managing Director

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