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Hard White Found in Soft White Wheat Cargoes

by Associated Press
Capital Press - July 19, 2002

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Hard white wheat has been discovered in cargoes of soft white wheat, a blending practice that could affect the predominant wheat's end-use functionality.

A barge load of soft white wheat berthed in Portland was found to contain about 15 percent hard white grain. Delivered to an export location, the load was subsequently blended below the 5 percent threshold allowable under grain standards for "wheat of other classes."

The actual percentage may have been higher than 5 percent given the difficulty of picking hard white wheat from soft white. Although they're different classes with different uses, the kernels closely resemble each other, especially when the hard white has low protein quality.

Promar Select, a grower-owned cooperative, forfeited more than a million bushels of low protein 377s to the Commodity Credit Corp. A portion of that grain was recently bought by Northwest-based companies.

Walt Rust, who manages the Portland field office of the Federal Grain Inspection Service, said graders were alerted to be on watch for the mixture. Extra care was made to look for the hard white in soft white cargoes.

Rust said FGIS doesn't express an opinion on the blending practice. The job of the agency is to be an unbiased third party, he said. Identifying the company guilty of blending in the hard white should fall to another organization, such as the Washington Wheat Commission, he said.

Tom Mick, chief executive officer of the wheat commission, said he had his suspicions who was blending the hard white into soft white cargoes. Although he didn't want to reveal any names, he was clearly upset over the practice.

"The Washington Wheat Commission is vehemently opposed to any adulteration. In the quality conscious market we're in, this is the fastest way to shoot ourselves, not in the foot, but in the head," he said.

Kim Kidwell, spring wheat breeder at Washington State University, mentioned the blending case during a field day presentation at the Spillman Farm field day. Kidwell has said the quickest way to damage the Northwest's reputation is by blending wheat of different classes.

She was told the countries where the cargo is heading won't be told of the blending unless they figure it out on their own. It's unclear whether they will.

Brady Carter, wheat-quality specialist at WSU, said work has been done looking at adulterating hard white with soft white, but not visa versa. Exactly how high a percentage is necessary for millers to notice the blend is unknown.

The first thing a baker would notice about hard white in soft white is the flour's higher water absorption.

"I can't say what 5 percent would do without putting in 5 percent and looking at it. Until now, we haven't had the time or inclination to do it, but it's something that needs to be dealt with," he said.

Associated Press
Hard White Found in Soft White Wheat Cargoes
Capital Press - July 19, 2002

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