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Pickled grain and contaminated loads


Food safety is an increasing concern in many of our key export markets, including the risk of contaminants entering the supply chain. 

Each harvest, contaminants are detected in grower deliveries at CBH’s sampling and grid discharge points. If detected further down the supply chain at ship loading or by the customer, these contaminants can be damaging to the reputation of both CBH and the WA grain industry.

Contaminants are classified into three levels (note that contaminant lists vary by commodity):

  • Level 1 - present a significant food safety or quality risk and cannot be removed e.g. pickled grain, fertiliser, broken glass, chemical residues.
  • Level 2 – present a food safety or quality risk and can have a significant impact on the integrity of the supply chain e.g. animal residue or excreta, live grain insects, mouldy grain.
  • Level 3 - present a food safety or quality risk and can be managed on farm e.g. declared weeds, sticks, metal. 

Of the Level 1 and Level 2 contaminants detected during the 2023/2024 harvest, 16% were pickled grain (see Figure 1.). Pickled grain refers to grain that has been treated with an insecticide and/or fungicide. It is considered a Level 1 contaminant, since it is a significant food safety and quality risk, and it cannot be removed from the grain.

Over the past five seasons, pickled grain was the second highest detected contaminant, representing on average 22% of all contaminants (see Figure 2). 

Impact and charges

Growers can incur Contaminated Load Charges if a Level 1 or Level 2 contaminant is detected at any point during the delivery process. If pickled grain is detected on the stack, the minimum contaminated load charge is $6,069* per load, however the charges are usually higher depending on:

  • the amount of additional grain contaminated
  • any operational costs associated with disposing of the grain.

In addition, Level 1 contaminations trigger a follow-up process where the grower cannot deliver any more grain until an on-farm visit is conducted, the source of contamination is determined, and the risk of further contaminated grain is mitigated.

*charges as per 2024/25 harvest period

How to prevent contamination

Pickled grain contamination is linked to farm practices and hygiene. The recommended way to avoid contamination is to avoid using any equipment at harvest that has been used to pickle grain.

If this is not possible, please make sure:

  • Equipment used to move pickled grain is thoroughly cleaned (including augers, trucks and chaser bins used at seeding time).
  • All harvest storage is cleaned out and washed before starting harvest. Take particular care around any catch points including inspection hatches and cleanout doors.
  • Trailers used to deliver grain to CBH are washed out. These are often used to transport pickled grain and other contaminants such as fertiliser and livestock pellets. Be sure to check the bars, under the roll tarp and around the tailgate.

Case study - Albany Zone pickled grain detection

During the 2022/23 harvest, pickled wheat was detected on a grid during the discharge of a canola load on the second of three trailers. The grid flow was stopped immediately and the site supervisor inspected the stack and found evidence of a contamination.

The impacts of this included:

  • The truck was unable to discharge the third trailer.
  • The grower could not deliver more grain until an on-farm visit could be conducted.
  • The site experienced delays, with the stack closed to further deliveries until it could be cleaned with an external contractor’s vacuum truck. The removed contaminated grain was picked up by the grower in the following days.
  • Additional workload was created for CBH employees with the clean-up, site management while the stack was closed, and an on-farm visit.

During the farm visit it was determined that the source of contamination was from a field bin that had been washed but not completely cleaned. This resulted in clumps of pickled wheat remaining in the bottom that were then transferred to the canola. 

Overall, the impact to the grower was considerable, including:

  • Both the remainder of the load (third trailer) and the contaminated grain had to be taken back to the farm, incurring extra transport costs.
  • Contractor cleaner costs to remove the grain from the stack (approximately $4000).
  • On farm operational delays, including a farm visit from CBH, equipment cleaning and extra handling of the affected grain.
  • Contaminated grain value loss (used for seed, sold domestically at reduced amount e.g. $100/T or disposed of).

Want to know more?

More information on contaminated loads can be found on the CBH website.

You are also encouraged to attend your local pre-harvest meeting in September or October and ask any questions of your local CBH team. 

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