Over the past 20 years, increasing globalization has had a noticeable impact on the food processing industry. While globalization introduces many opportunities to expand your business, it also brings a greater number of variables into the food processing system — and with that, greater opportunity for pests to compromise food safety.
From farm to table, there are a number of chances for pathogens, allergens and irritants to be introduced to food. Pests can compromise food safety by transmitting disease-causing pathogens, or by contamination through allergens and irritants spread by hairs, feathers, skin, or other body parts. So, what can you do to protect your product and reputation?
It starts with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program for all stages in the food supply chain. IPM is the most effective and environmentally friendly approach to preventing pest issues. It employs preventive measures such as sanitation and facility maintenance processes to eliminate the potential for pest issues. The goal of this approach is to restrict pests’ access to food, water and shelter. An IPM program is recommended for all industries, but has its roots in the agricultural industry where it originated to reduce the use of chemical treatments around food.
Here are three more tips to protect your supply chain against foodborne illness:
1. Invest in your staff
Your staff is your biggest asset in keeping food safety top of mind. As the eyes and ears of the processing line and the first line of defense against pests, they can be the most effective preventive measure in an IPM program.
Your pest management partner is well versed in pest entomology and ecology, so educate and empower your staff through IPM training sessions. A few topics you may want to address include Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) focusing on incoming and outgoing shipment inspections; good storage and housekeeping practices; pest identification and basic biology; monitoring for pest activity; and communication strategies. Most importantly, if any signs of damage, pest activity, or pests themselves are found, staff should notify management immediately so that corrective action can be implemented.
2. Stay clean and sound
IPM relies heavily on sanitation and sound structure for the overall success of the program. Your pest management partner can identify the proper sanitation practices that will alleviate supply chain management pest concerns.
Basic practices that will help in preventing pest activity include routinely cleaning shipping and receiving areas; inspecting incoming shipments; sanitizing food preparation areas and packaging surfaces; establishing regular deep clean schedules; and monitoring storage areas for buildup of debris and food spills. It is also important to inspect and replace worn-out door sweeps/seals,caulking holes, gaps, cracks and crevices. Finally, maintain a neat and well-groomed landscape. A clean work environment eliminates hiding places and feeding spots for pests.
3. Be proactive
Develop a co-operative relationship with your pest management partner. The more aware you both are of your facility’s unique conditions and needs, the more successful your IPM program will be. Through regular inspections and communications, your pest management program will be seamlessly integrated into your facility’s day-to-day operations.
You may want to consider implementing proactive measures for your facility, such as electronic reporting and scanning devices, ultrasonic technology and electronic trap monitors. Implementing technology in your IPM program allows you to work smarter, not harder, while providing the convenience and accuracy of electronic documentation.
The beauty of an IPM approach is that it focuses on common sense sanitation and facility maintenance steps to proactively reduce pest pressures. By partnering with your pest management professional, you can strengthen the protocols and processes you already have in place to further reduce the potential for foodborne illnesses and the safety risks that come with contaminated product.
An effective IPM program implemented throughout the supply chain will help ensure food is safely delivered to the end-consumer, but it requires a commitment from everyone involved in the process. Working together with your pest management professional, suppliers and employees, and through an IPM program, you can help deliver a safe food product from farm to table.
Alice Sinia, Ph.D., is Resident Entomologist — Regulatory/Lab Services, for Orkin Canada, focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. She manages the Quality Assurance Laboratory for Orkin Canada, performs analytical entomology and provides technical support to branch offices and clients. Contact her at [email protected], or visit www.orkincanada.com