The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) estimates that there are 11 million cases of foodborne illness in the country every year. For consumers, this can mean violent sickness, and in severe cases, death. For those along the supply chain, contaminated product can mean loss of revenue, a damaged reputation and potentially business closure. What’s worse is that every case could have been prevented somewhere along the line. So how can you protect your business and customers from the effects of foodborne illness?
Foodborne illness is typically caused by bacteria, which is often spread to food by pests such as flies, rodents and cockroaches.
• Flies transmit more than 100 known pathogens, including E. coli, Salmonella, staphylococcus and shingles. Flies leave behind bacteria every time they land, threatening food safety.
• Rodents carry Salmonella in their intestinal tracts, and can contaminate food through bacteria in their droppings or urine.
• Cockroaches carry a number of organisms and bacteria that can cause food poisoning, diarrhea and dysentery. Roaches typically contract these diseases by walking into contaminated environments and then spreading them to other areas.
Because of the dangers pests like these present, pest management is an important part of ensuring that bacteria stays out of food and beverage products. The most effective and environmentally friendly method for preventing pests is an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. IPM employs proactive sanitation methods to decrease the chances of pest problems before they occur. The goal of this approach is to restrict pests’ access to the three elements they need to survive – food, water and shelter. An IPM approach can also use chemical treatments as a last resort, further reducing the risk of food contamination.
An effective IPM program throughout the food supply chain helps ensure food is delivered to consumers without pests and the bacteria they carry. However, it is the responsibility of everyone in the supply chain to ensure pest-free shipments. If you receive a shipment containing damaged ingredients or signs of pests such as webbing, larvae or pests themselves, refuse the shipment and alert your supplier immediately.
After you have inspected incoming product, make sure it is stored properly by keeping all inventory labelled and dated in containers that are properly sealed and undamaged. It’s also a good idea to keep a sample from each shipment in a sealed and labelled container. If larvae or insects begin to appear, immediately contact the product supplier to implement a suitable action plan. Dry product should also be stored away from the walls and off the floor to help prevent products from deteriorating and serving as breeding spots for pests.
Cleanliness is crucial at every step of the food supply chain, especially at the preparation stage. Sanitize any surfaces before placing food on them, and implement a deep cleaning schedule in order to thoroughly clean hard-to-reach spaces such as behind and under equipment.
Finally, it’s important that all partners properly document their pest management programs. Your pest management provider should ensure you have service reports, pesticide usage logs and material safety data sheets for all products used on hand. As far as a health inspector or auditor is concerned, it didn’t happen if it isn’t documented.
Implementing an IPM program and partnering with your pest management professional can help reduce the potential for foodborne illnesses and limit the risks that come with contaminated product.
Bill Melville is Quality Assurance director for Orkin Canada. For more information, contact Melville at [email protected], or visit www.orkincanada.com