7 June 2002

Tackle rap for sampling squabbles?

DIFFERENCES between the machines used to analyse grain samples could be to blame for many grain disputes, it has emerged.

That is an initial observation from a £1.1m Treasury-funded HGCA grain sampling and analysis project, which aims to reduce the £2.5m/year lost to rejections and contract deductions.

Ensuring labs analyse grain samples consistently is a key part of the project, but lab technicians admit that is hard to achieve, says the HGCAs Julian Bell

"A lot of labs recognise there will be differences because there are quite a few different machines used to test samples."

In Denmark, the law allows only one machine to be used and one set of procedures. That also happens in the UK with flour testing, says Mr Bell.

"Labs communicate every day to check the consistency of machines used to test flour. There are rejections at the bakery, but no one disputes the analysis, because theyre working within such a fine tolerance."

However, forcing labs down the Danish route is not within the remit of the HGCA project, says R&D manager Roger Williams.

"If labs are transparent about the tolerance of their machines, market forces may dictate people will replace equipment with the most accurate model." &#42