Case Study 3
Water Damaged Milling Wheat
Milling wheat was shipped from USA to The Phillippines on a merchant vessel. During the voyage the vessel experienced severe weather and on arrival in port the Captain registered a Marine note of Protest fearing cargo damage. Subsequently during discharge parts of one hold were found to contain wetted wheat. The Mill rejected the 7000mt of wheat from this hold as not fit/acceptable for milling. The shipping line claimed some of the wheat was usable and it should not be held liable for damage to the whole cargo.
Was the water ingress sufficient to cause a food safety issue?
Was any of the wheat suitable for milling?
What was the legal validity of the tests carried out by the shipping line insurers?
Were the insurers acting for the Mill liable for the rejection because the wheat was usuable?
Maltdoctor acted for those insurers against the shipping line insurer.
On opening the hold the surface of the cargo looked reasonably dry. However, as it was unloaded a number of clumps of wheat were found. This indicated that water ingress had penetrated deep into the cargo. During discharge the report from those trying to segregate undamaged wheat noted that the portside portion of cargo was found to be partly wetted. They attempted to segregate just 9mt of wet, rotten damp caked wheat which was deemed a total loss leaving the balance being claimed as usable.
This was a case of very poor practice from those taking samples of the cargo, through laboratory interpretation of results and subsequent off-loading. It could have been that some of the wheat was proven safe, whereas because a suitable expert such as Maltdoctor was not consulted early enough the whole procedure became somewhat of a farce resulting in the entire cargo being deemed unfit for use.
There was very poor sampling carried out and wheat taken for analysis was kept in open sacks on dockside during intermittent rain. This generated highly dubious moisture analysis from the expert laboratories initially used. Calculations of the weight of water ingress those samples would have required were compared against photographs of the plimsoll line and found to be impossibly large amounts. A previous marine sampling agency had sent samples for analysis immediately and those were closer to the original loading moisture. The problem with those samples was that they were not done on a grid system that represented different areas and depths, hence could not be used to determine where moisture ingress had occurred. The combined issues were used to discredit the higher results but also reject any of the samples taken or analysed as being suitable for use as evidence by either side. However, a simple and cheap food safety test could have determined if the wheat was indeed that wet or wet enough to have gone mouldy and generate toxins. The legal test for mycotoxins in The Phillippines was not appropriate for water damage in cereals. Tests were conducted for aflatoxin whereas they should have been tested for deoxynivalenol (DON) based on international food safety procedure. When this was done the wetted portion was higher in DON than is acceptable for food production hence the argument about what the real moisture was became irrelevant.
Unwetted wheat samples had acceptable DON levels and could have been usable IF during off-loading appropriate sampling was used, but it wasn't.
It would have been possible to use the cleaned and segregated wheat if incremental samples were taken and analysed for moisture and DON as it was off-loaded. However, we warned about improper segregation in our report because offloading had simply proceeded into port-side silos without sampling. Therefore contaminated wheat could have been mixed with usable wheat.
The decision of the Maltdoctor report was that there was sufficient doubt over the food safety of the cargo because of the way it was sampled and off-loaded such that it was reasonable for the mill to reject the entire shipment.
Loss avoided by the insurers for the Mill was $2.2M