What are assurance schemes?
Assurance schemes set out a series of standards that must be met in order for a product (in this case grain) to be considered assured. Producers are audited to ensure they comply with the standards, and any non-conformances have to be rectified if a producer wishes to continue to be assured.
Assurance schemes give buyers confidence the commodity they are purchasing has been produced to a set of standards, for example around food safety and environmental impacts.
Is UK wheat assured?
All home-grown wheat used by UK flour millers is assured within one of the two main assurance schemes operating in the UK.
The largest of these is Red Tractor which has 18,000 arable members within a well-established scheme. UK Flour Millers is represented on the Red Tractor Crops Board and has taken an active role in ensuring that standards fulfil the requirements of millers and meet food safety aspects. The system has a strong audit base which is under constant review and improvement.
A similar scheme operates mainly in Scotland which is Scottish Quality Crops (SQC). Scotland grows approximately 1% of the UK wheat crop and this is used for malting, flour milling and animal feed. Most of the milling wheat is used for biscuit making. Although 85% of the Scottish cereal crop is assured under SQC, flour millers will only source assured wheat.
There are several other assurance schemes such as the LEAF Marque and Soil Association schemes. All certifying bodies must comply with national and EU standards.
Another assurance scheme relevant to wheat and flour production is the TASCC Assurance scheme, which covers aspects relating to wheat merchants, stores and transport. The scheme maintains assurance from farm to mill by ensuring that the same high standards are upheld in grain transport from farm, storage and delivery to mill.
Red Tractor: www.redtractor.org.uk
Scottish Quality Crops: www.sqcrops.co.uk
Soil Association: www.sacert.org