2 April 1999

TASCC under scrutiny

UKASTAs new Trade

Assurance Scheme for

Combinable Crops (TASCC)

has been welcomed. But

there are some concerns

over its standards,

Amanda Dunn discovers

BASED on haulage, storage and laboratory codes of practice, TASCC aims to extend crop assurance from farm gate to end user.

Farmers, storekeepers and hauliers broadly support it but claim it has gaps.

John Errington of Heathcote Farms, Beds has 7000t of grain storage and is fully in favour of the scheme. But he criticises laboratory standards.

The current lab practice code does not specify how long grain samples must be kept, nor do labs have to participate in ring tests to confirm their test results are valid.

"This is the side of the scheme where we need more credibility. Samples should be kept for three months. If labs do not have sufficient storage they should get it."

NFU cereals committee chairman Richard Butler agrees. "We are very much in favour of laboratory accreditation, and hope it will lead to more consistent grain quality testing. Latest ACCS standards require samples to be kept for three months. It would be nice if TASCC did the same."

"From our point of view we try to keep samples until the end of the season," says Ian Douglas of Allied Grain and UKASTAs arable marketing committee. "But it is not always practical, particularly if grain is coming in at high moistures."

Mr Douglas believes methods other than ring testing can ensure lab competence. There are equally accurate ways to confirm a laboratorys accuracy, such as using primary reference wet chemistry methods, he maintains.

TASCCs storage and haulage codes are also under fire.

Unlike ACCS standards, no pressure washing of dual-purpose stores is required before grain intake. The only requirement for conventional stores is routine cleaning, preferably annually.

"Any store used to house livestock needs to be power washed before storing grain," argues one Midlands-based grain merchant. "There should also be provision to ensure stores are cleaned at least annually when not continually housing grain."

"Commercial grain stores do not work like farmers," counters Mr Douglas. "They take grain in continuously for 12 months and rarely have empty stores."

Trade members remain surprised by other TASCC oversights. The codes offer no advice on procedures to protect the integrity of grain bulks compromised by single loads whose safety is in doubt.

"I think this is a very serious point," says Mr Errington. "If a central store has ACCS grain which, for whatever reason, becomes contaminated, it has to know how to react."

Glencore Grains Robert Kerr believes consumer concern could be allayed by better controls. "The situation with contaminated grain is no different to antibiotics in milk. There should be a set procedure for storekeepers to follow." Mr Douglas says much depends on circumstances. "The storekeeper must show due diligence and react to each individual situation."

The road haulage code has been operating since July 1998.

Stennetts Transport, of Bury St Edmunds, operates a fleet of 40 lorries and 57 trailers. While satisfied with the standard, a spokesman is concerned that some merchants and hauliers may not comply with the code.

"One of the main controlling factors of any code is being able to trace equipment." But many trailers are still not clearly identifiable.

Stennetts also believes that for auditing purposes some merchants may select only hauliers they are confident will pass the code, while continuing to use others.

"We are required to visit a third of our hauliers each year," says Cargills Andy Bury. "We are picking our biggest hauliers first because they carry out the bulk of the work. But ultimately all hauliers will be inspected within a three-year period."

Mr Douglas believes many hauliers initially misinterpreted the code, assuming chassis numbering was sufficient. "The identification needs to be visible from the weighbridge. Once explained this is easily overcome." &#42

LABORATORYCODE

&#8226 Records of staff performance.

&#8226 Regular staff performance reviews.

&#8226 Records of equipment maintenance and calibration.

&#8226 Regular check tests.

&#8226 Laboratories determine own sample storage policy.

&#8226 Ring testing not compulsory.

HAULAGECODE

&#8226 Trailer identification required.

&#8226 Strict requirements on trailer cleanliness.

&#8226 Records of cleaning operations and loads.

&#8226 No independent verification.

STORAGECODE

&#8226 Detailed record keeping.

&#8226 Weekly grain inspection.

&#8226 Fortnightly inspection once stabilised.

&#8226 Assured grain to be stored separately.

&#8226 Contaminated grain to be discarded after oil spillages.

&#8226 No pressure washing after livestock housing.

&#8226 Annual cleaning preferred not demanded.

&#8226 If safety concern over one load, no procedure to protect bulk grain integrity.