Canadian Grain Commission
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Canadian wheat

Overview of the Canadian wheat quality assurance system

An effective grain quality assurance system considers the best interests of all segments of the industry, and must be flexible and responsive to evolving industry needs. The Canadian wheat quality assurance system overseen by the Canadian Grain Commission is modeled on that basis, but there are fundamental principles that remain constant. They include safety, cleanliness, uniformity and consistency, and superior processing performance.

Canada can supply high quality wheat reliably year-to-year because on average over 20 million metric tons are produced annually in the vast fertile plains of western Canada, while domestic milling requirement is only about 2.5 million metric tons. Dockage must be removed from Canadian wheat prior to export according to standards set by the Canadian Grain Commission. Dockage-free wheat requires less intense cleaning in preparation for milling. Removing dockage also improves wheat storage stability, and may alleviate import restrictions associated with noxious weed seeds. Removal of genetically modified impurities, and/or potentially allergenic plant material is becoming increasingly important to millers, as more customers require assurance that milled products meet strict GMO content limits.

Insect infestation is rarely a problem with Canadian wheat because of the harsh winter weather conditions in western Canada. The main form of storage in western Canada is on-farm in steel silos. Canadian Grain Commission entomologists and grain sanitation officers work closely with the industry to minimize infestation in grain handling facilities, and to ensure that problems are dealt with promptly and effectively.

Consumers are demanding assurances of food safety more and more, and in response, wheat importers are increasingly requesting safety statements of assurance or safety certification for shipments. Canadian Grain Commission research and monitoring programs provide in-depth knowledge of what toxic contaminants and constituents could possibly be present in Canadian grain (Nowicki 1993). Depending on the request of each customer, the Canadian Grain Commission will issue a letter of assurance based on historical data, or carryout analyses to certify levels of pesticide residues, mycotoxins, toxic trace elements, radio nuclides and noxious weed seeds. Canadian Grain Commission monitoring programs have shown that Canadian grain is not only safe, but meets the strictest Canadian and international tolerances for all potential toxic contaminants.

Millers want uniformity and consistency in order to meet flour or semolina specifications demanded by their customers. End-users want uniformity and consistency to make products acceptable to consumers without continually changing processing conditions. Consistent quality from shipment to shipment of the same class and grade of wheat, for which Canadian wheat is well known, is an obvious asset. Of almost equal importance is uniformity within and between holds of a given shipment.

The goal of the Canadian wheat quality assurance system is to allow customers to select a class and grade of Canadian wheat that best meets their requirements, with confidence that it will perform as expected. To accomplish this goal for Canadian wheat:

  • quality models for western Canadian wheat classes are carefully and clearly defined;
  • western Canadian wheat classes must be visually distinct from each other to allow efficient segregation;
  • Canadian Grain Commission wheat grade standards have a scientific basis;
  • the Canadian Grain Commission protocol during loading of wheat export cargoes is designed to maintain uniformity and consistency and to assure processing quality;
  • post-shipment monitoring of end-use quality is conducted by the Canadian Grain Commission;
  • an ongoing dialog is maintained with users of Canadian wheat.