Leading millers drop mycotoxin test requirement

CEREAL growers have been warned they will only have themselves to blame if the nation’s leading millers demand a return to compulsory mycotoxin testing for milling wheat.

A number of mills, including the two biggest in the UK, Rank Hovis and ADM, have said they are now content to rely on the farmer mycotoxin risk assessment, in light of the reduced risk associated with the 2009 harvest.

The millers are likely to demand the tests again when the 2010 wheat harvest starts reaching their gates to assess risk levels but, for now, many are accepting the HGCA risk assessment.

The NFU estimates that with the onerous DON mycotoxin tests for wheat entering the food chain paid for by farmers, the requirement was costing cereal growers £2 million a year.

NFU combinable crops chairman Ian Backhouse welcomed the ‘common sense’ decision. A key factor was advice published in the autumn by the Food Standards Agency in the autumn that UK wheat grown in 2009 was ‘significantly less likely’ to be above EU limits that in the previous two years.

But Mr Backhouse said the change of policy was also a ‘great example of whole wheat supply chain working together to successfully resolve a problem’, something he said would not have been possible a few years ago.

But he stressed that: “As farmers we will only have ourselves to blame if more testing is put upon us.

“We have now got a situation where the risk assessment has been accepted as the major indicator of mycotoxin presence but farmers must fill it in honestly and accurately. If not we will go back to the position irrespective of the level of risk of the crop as  a whole where the farmer will be required to have a test done prior to movement of wheat destined for the food chain,” he told NFU council.

Martin Savage, trade policy manager of nabim, which represents millers, said in response to the Rank Hovis decision that not all millers would be prepared to drop the tests, particularly cereal manufacturers, who are required to operate to a lower threshold.

He said millers were ‘not entirely satisfied’ with the HGCA’s risk assessment but with low mycotoxin levels this season, it has been difficult to compare results with DON tests.

“Farmers must stick with it to the best of their ability if primary producers and their customers are going to have confidence in it,” he said.

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