A national grain sampling and analysis system for improved food marketing and safety
About this project
The objective of this project was to develop an innovative, independent national structure for cereals sampling and analysis that would significantly improve the marketing of UK grain and bring about cost reductions.
There were two basic lines of approach. 1. Development of robust and practical sampling protocols that delivered representative samples. 2. Devising a standard for all UK grain analysts.
Sampling was investigated on-farm at harvest time, in store, loading out of store and at delivery to processors or merchants/cooperatives. Protocols were developed for harvest sampling (both into store and ex-dryer) and for lorry sampling. The former was used in sampler workshops to explain to growers why and how to take representative samples. The latter was adopted by the relevant trade organisations.
The sampling protocols were based on extensive investigations and designed to be both robust and practical. For the first time these studies gave real data on the variability of bulk grain and hence the approaches used were scientifically based. Part of the education process has been to describe and explain the inherent variability of bulk grain and why it is vital to take multiple samples to ensure that a true representation of the mean values of grain in the bulk is provided. All the sampling work has been reported in HGCA reports and two sampling guides were made available to all levy payers. In addition on-farm sampling was described in detail by a training CD ROM that shows the protocols in action and provides information on marketing and end user requirements.
Standardising grain testing was challenging due to the large number of testing facilities and the existence of a number of proficiency schemes/codes of practice. The solution was to set a standard that all schemes could adopt and ensure that this was set at a sufficiently high level to improve testing. This allowed the current schemes to continue without imposing an additional level of control and expense. The standard developed gives targets to be achieved by individual analysts (repeatability) and laboratories when participating in recognised proficiency testing (PT) schemes. The major trade associations, AIC, nabim and MAGB have adopted the approach and will be responsible for maintaining it in future. The target values set are based on a large body of data taken from existing PT schemes and are robust and achievable.
In order to support this initiative, training by multi-media CD ROM has been provided. The training material covered reference and rapid testing methodology and emphasised the commercial relevance and critical control points of each test as well as describing sample preparation and quality assurance. The CD ROMs were distributed by the trade associations to their members and are in wide use with the AIC's TASCC code of practice specifying that all laboratory staff must use them.
The project was very widely covered by the farming press and findings have been passed on to traders and processors through their trade associations. The wealth of information as well as the practical approaches to sampling and testing has provided a platform for change and improvement in the trading of UK grain. This was confirmed by the very strong feedback from sampling workshops when 93.8% of attendees said that they would adopt the on-farm sampling protocols. In addition a number of trading companies have promoted the adoption of these protocols.
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