The pest control industry is fairly successful at controlling cockroaches. But the tools that make managing infestations easier in some areas — gel baits, sprays or anything that leaves residual traces — present a challenge for food processing or food packaging areas, where traditional pest control approaches are highly restricted by regulations. Combined with the fact that such areas are often large and complex, as well as often being humid, wet or dusty (baking or pet food facilities), it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when a cockroach infestation appears.
Food processing areas typically have a lot of specialized equipment designed for the food product being manufactured. Equipment ranges from vats, cookers and ovens, to sifters and conveyors, not to mention the varying arrays of pipes and conduits found in these spaces. Floors may be concrete or tiled and walls are commonly hollow block or may be protected by tile or steel sheeting. Moisture is usually present and cleaning is often done using water hoses.
The constant moisture and food availability makes food processing a perfect environment for cockroach populations of varying sizes. Differing levels of building maintenance also contributes to the difficulty in controlling cockroaches.
Although German cockroaches are the usual target pest in food processing, American and oriental cockroaches can also be serious pests, particularly in older buildings. German cockroaches are usually carried in via incoming supplies, but larger cockroach species may be inhabiting drain lines leading to infested sanitary sewers on the property or, in rare cases, beneath slab floors where soil has subsided from the bottom of the slab. Here are a few ways to help control the pests.
Written Pest Management Plan. Treatments for cockroaches in production and processing areas in a food manufacturing facility should be restricted to the procedures and details in the written pest management plan for the facility. Meat packing and poultry facilities supervised by the Department of Agriculture may have additional restrictions as to which products and procedures may be allowed in the facility based on the decisions of the inspector-in-charge.
If the facility has a third-party auditing agency, its particular treatment guidelines will need to be incorporated into the overall plan. Alternative treatments to deal with a specific infestation where the approved written procedures are not successful should be submitted in writing and approved by facility management.
Treatment Restrictions. Application of residual insecticides in food processing areas are restricted to cracks and voids only. Sealing of cracks following treatment may be required in the written pest management plan. Exposed surfaces and equipment will typically be cleaned following a pest control service, so any spot treatments even allowed by label directions will be removed. The amount of heat and moisture present have an effect on the residual life of insecticide treatments, making them less effective.
Service Timing. Since your processing area cannot be in operation during a pest control service, look to schedule treatments on weeknights or during the weekend. Also, try scheduling more comprehensive services during periods of shutdown, such as when heavy maintenance is being done.
Don’t be afraid to put in a call for emergency service if pest activity peaks, but be prepared to shut down that portion of your facility.
At any rate, make sure service times and frequency are detailed in the written pest management plan.
Inspection and Evaluation. If your food processing area is on the larger side or portioned into separate rooms, keep an eye out for pockets of cockroaches that may be scattered around the area. While the larger area makes them more time-consuming to find, interviewing employees to have them point out where cockroaches have been seen is helpful in targeting inspections.
Keep track of where cockroaches have regularly been an issue and be prepared to open up equipment to allow for more careful inspection of areas where cockroaches may be hidden.
If you’re seeing continued, regular activity, analyze the area to determine if any underlying factor (i.e., cockroaches being brought on incoming supplies) is occurring, active harborages are being overlooked (i.e., high above floor level, wall voids) or a deeply hidden pocket of cockroaches may be present (i.e., under a slab or double walls in an older facility).
Use pyrethrins-based aerosols to chase hidden cockroaches into the open, then follow with a pest control vacuum to remove as many as possible as they are discovered and flushed from harborages. Physical removal provides immediate population reduction and results.
Meanwhile, sites where many cockroaches are found should be investigated more thoroughly. And if you’re still seeing increased activity, use the flushing and vacuuming process once or twice a week to ensure the infestation is eliminated more quickly.
Residual Treatments. Remember, best practice is keeping applications restricted to crack, crevice and void treatments only. After application of residual products, treated cracks are typically required to be sealed.
Voids in walls may harbor cockroaches and require treatment using a residual dust product. Installation of plastic wall tubes with caps that allow sealing of the opening can be used when future re-treatments of voids is expected or desired.
Baits labeled for food processing areas may also be used but applied only into cracks and voids, following label directions.
Persistence and Focused Treatments. No easy answers exist for dealing with cockroaches in food processing facilities — just persistence in examining all potential harborages and then focusing treatments on the sites with activity. Whether you’re calling in pest professionals or not, you need to be methodical, starting at one corner and working around and behind all equipment and wall areas. Even the smallest crack may harbor a handful of cockroaches, so when a pocket of them is found, every crack needs examination. Follow-up services may need to be done within a day or two, or weekly, depending on the sensitivity of the situation and/or the numbers of cockroaches found.
The author is owner of Stoy Pest Consulting and one of the country’s leading urban entomologists and an author of several books.
Seeing the Potential in Traceability for the Food Safety Industry
Six months on, FDA’s New Era for Smarter Food Safety is making traceability one of the buzziest words in the industry, and the concept is already becoming a reality.
Stop what you’re doing and imagine. Picture consumers being able to walk into a grocery store, pick up your product, scan it with a mobile device and gain peace of mind when they read where it came from thanks to blockchain and other new technologies. Or, if you’re a manufacturer, daydream about being able to look down at your phone and get a reading on everything that’s happening in your plant in the moment because of Internet of Things tools.
It’s not make-believe. It’s what’s possible with technologies that are already here, according to Frank Yiannas, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) deputy commissioner for food policy and response.
“This is not blue-sky imaginary thinking,” Yiannas said. “We’re not talking about things that can’t be done. They’re happening as we speak. We live in a day and age where everything can be increasingly digitized.”
In order to keep up with these technologies and deal with a changing food industry — where consumers are demanding healthier, safer, traceable food — the FDA launched its New Era for Smarter Food Safety in July 2020. The FDA’s new approach includes a blueprint that lays out goals to enhance things such as traceability, predictive analytics, the capability to respond more quickly to outbreaks and more. FDA also outlined a new food traceability rule last year.
“[FSMA] was the most sweeping reform to our nation’s food laws in many years,” Yiannas said. “And while there’s still work to be done in FSMA, modernization isn’t something you can just do once a decade.”
Aside from trying to keep up with change and follow what Yiannas believes is a mandate set by the passage of FSMA to continue to modernize, he stressed that another reason to usher in the New Era is the constant fight to make food safer.
“While we’ve made advancements in food safety, the reality is that there’s work to be done,” Yiannas said. “If you look at foodborne disease statistics or incidence rates as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rates haven’t changed much in a couple of decades. Our commitment is to bend the curve of foodborne illness once and for all in this country.”
Setting An Example.
Perhaps few things exemplify the industry’s struggle with foodborne illness than the recent recalls of leafy greens, including romaine lettuce.
According to the CDC, 51 foodborne disease outbreaks were linked to leafy greens between 2014 and 2018, resulting in 1,406 people getting sick.
Having good traceability tools in place can reduce the time it takes to go back and identify potentially contaminated food, meaning fewer hours worked, and can help provide for more targeted recalls, resulting in less wasted food.
“The FDA and the leafy green industry have been investing a lot of time, gathering information around some of the food safety challenges that are there, particularly in romaine,” said Bryan Hitchcock, executive director of the Global Food Traceability Center at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). “This was an action item level in the FDA’s [traceability] plan around addressing leafy greens.”
So, as Hitchcock put it, “It’s important to take it out of the conference room and off the video conference and go test drive things and see if the ideas and the templates and the things that are happening move the needle and how can they be improved.”
To support FDA’s New Era, IFT partnered with the Food Industry Association (FMI), GS1 U.S., International Foodservice Distributers Association (IFDA), Produce Marketing Association (PMA) and United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh) to create a task force and run traceability pilot programs focusing on leafy greens.
Working with growers, distributors and retailers (independents and chains) from July to October 2020, the pilots focused on various romaine lettuce products, and showed that “investigations into foodborne illness outbreaks could be streamlined and conducted more effectively when supply chain partners provided extended product information during tracebacks,” the report overview stated.
Hitchcock acknowledges that there’s going to need to be education, training and understanding to get more businesses in the supply chain up to speed.
“The associations and the FDA also recognize that this is going to be a journey for folks, and we need to provide the tools to help them,” he said.
But Hitchcock also pointed out that these pilots can serve as a great example to other sectors of the industry looking to improve traceability.
“IFT and the Global Food Traceability Center are very active in seafood as well, and very similar types of things are happening,” he said. “The templates may be a little bit different, some of the information may be a little bit different, but it’s certainly deployable across multiple industries.”
While the FDA’s New Era and proposed traceability rule are still in the early going, there’s work that suppliers and manufacturers can do now. In fact, one of the first steps may simply be checking to see if the new regulations apply to you.
“[FDA has] outlined the product categories that are going to be subject to these new rules,” said Eric Hansen, vice president of technical solutions at SafetyChain Software, which develops tools to help food manufacturers capture data.
And even if it doesn’t apply to you, Hansen said that it provides a good framework for companies to set up traceability for risk management and public safety purposes.
“That might actually be one of the nice byproducts of this,” he said. “Even beyond where it applies, the food traceability rule lays out a reusable framework. So even people who are not subject to it might use that as a guide.”
Part of what’s included in the New Era is also looking ahead at artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive analytics to see potential problems down the road or improve efficiencies.
“It has the ability to identify trends or make you ask questions that maybe you didn’t know you had to ask,” Yiannas said.
He used the example of UPS, which used analytics to determine it can save time by reducing the unnecessary left turns its drivers make.
“They started digitizing all of the data: how fast their trucks were going, when they were idling, routes that they were taking, if they were turning left or right,” Yiannas said. “And lo and behold, only by digitizing information, using computational power and big data, they found out that when those trucks were making left hand turns, they tend to idle a lot, consume more gas and take a long time. You didn’t see it until you analyzed the data.”
Potential realizations such as that for the food industry make now an exciting time, Yiannas said.
“I’ve never been as excited as I am today to work on food safety,” he said. “While some of the challenges are daunting, I feel like for the first time in history, I truly sit at the threshold of a sea change on the tools that we can use to solve them. … I do believe that over the course of the next decade, you will see that curve of foodborne illness decrease, and we will do it together using new approaches.”
Pest Control Tips for Food Facilities During 2021
Columns - Practical Pest Protection
A new year offers a chance for renewed efforts in controlling infestations.
Last year proved to be one of the most challenging years for every industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plant closures, employee sick leave and social distancing made it especially difficult for food processing facilities to keep up with the demand.
On top of this, many facilities experienced an increase in pest control issues as rodents and other pests became more desperate and bolder in their search for food sources in light of reduced foot traffic. The past year has emphasized the importance of working with a licensed pest control partner and making prevention a top priority in the new year.
As we head into 2021, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Understanding the pests that frequently invade food processing facilities and the threats they pose can help facility managers identify and address any issues that may arise before an infestation has a chance to take hold. Food processing facilities present the perfect conditions for various pests, including rodents, flies, cockroaches and stored product pests to thrive thanks to an abundance of food, shelter and moisture. These pests can cause serious issues as they contaminate food with their droppings and are known to spread many diseases to humans, including E. coli and Salmonella. While pantry pests do not transmit disease, they can still infest ingredients.
Pest Control Partner.
The best way to address any pest issues and prevent new infestations is to work with a reliable, licensed pest control partner. Professional pest control was deemed an essential service during the pandemic by the Department of Homeland Security, allowing companies to continue their vital work.
A commercial pest control partner will help develop an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan specially designed for your facility and its unique needs to ensure compliance with Food and Drug Administration regulations. IPM is a pest control method that focuses on three basic techniques: inspection, identification and treatment.
Hiring the best pest control partner should be at the top of every manager’s 2021 to-do list. To determine which company is the best match for your facility’s needs, there are a handful of things to consider.
Evaluate pest control companies that are members of national, state or local pest control associations. Being a member of these means the company is committed to protecting public health and property and has a desire to receive ongoing education. It also means these companies strictly adhere to state and federal regulations.
Research companies and ask for recommendations from others in the food processing industry as they face similar challenges. When meeting with a prospective pest control partner, always ask questions about their practices and other food processing clients they serve.
Before finalizing the agreement, carefully read contract terms to fully understand what pests and services are covered, as well as any guarantees that may be given. Be sure to negotiate and ask questions, if necessary.
Pest Prevention Tips.
In addition to continuously working with a pest control professional, there are simple things facility managers can do to help prevent an infestation in the new year.
Look for signs of a rodent infestation such as live or dead rodents, nests or gnaw and rub marks. Pay extra attention to machinery, kitchens and bathrooms for signs of a cockroach infestation such as droppings or eggs. Carefully inspect storage areas where materials may be packed close together, providing cover for a multitude of pests. Finally, scrutinize any shipments for pests before bringing packages and deliveries inside. Clean machinery and high-volume areas, such as employee break rooms and kitchens, daily. Keep trash receptacles closed and regularly remove garbage from inside and outside the facility.
Keep food sources sealed because pests are attracted to food processing and service facilities where food is in abundance. It’s important to discard any food that is expired, left uncovered or shows signs of infiltration, and to store any usable food items in sealed containers.
On the exterior of the building, seal any cracks or holes, replace any weather stripping or loose mortar around the foundation and windows and repair fascia, soffits and rotted roof shingles. Also, ensure tree branches and shrubbery are well-trimmed and kept away from the building. Inside the facility, keep food storage areas, basements and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
While food processing plants may continue to experience the effects of the pandemic, there are steps facility managers can take now to help prevent an infestation in the new year. By proactively partnering with a pest control company now, you can ensure the safety of your employees and products both next year, and beyond.
New FDA Regulations are All About the Garnish
Columns - Legal Briefs
How to dig into the FDA’s Produce Safety Rule via the burger.
Food manufacturers may be wondering how the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recently enacted produce safety regulations affect them and their consumers. Consumers themselves, well aware of the increasing number of outbreaks involving produce traditionally thought of by consumers as safe to eat (think spinach, romaine lettuce, and more recently, red onions), want to know how food manufacturers are protecting them, and rightly so.
Through the produce regulations, which are at Code of Federal Regulations, 21, 112.1-112.213, the FDA has attempted to tackle the growing number of these kinds of outbreaks, potentially arming the food industry with an additional weapon for use in the constant battle with foodborne illness.
The regulations, broadly speaking, require farms of a certain size to develop processes relating to employee hygiene and training, agricultural water, biological soil amendments (compost, manure and the like), buildings and equipment. It’s all in an effort to decrease the risk of contamination of produce during growing, harvesting, packing and holding. But what does that mean for food manufacturers?
The simplest way to get a good overview of the regulations is to consider them in the context of one of life’s simple pleasures: a burger and fries.
The fries are an easy one. For reasons that should be fairly obvious, the regulations don’t apply to produce that is rarely consumed raw. The FDA has provided an exhaustive list of this kind of produce.
But what about those all-important trimmings — tomatoes, lettuce, onions and pickles? With the arrival of the produce regulations, can food manufacturers expect, and even demand, a greater level of safety and accountability from their suppliers?
The short answer is yes. Lettuce, tomatoes and onions are all covered produce under the act. (Pickles are treated differently, and we’ll get to them shortly.)
Even though the regulations cover the typical garnishes, whether or not they provide food manufacturers with greater guarantees of safety and accountability really depends on who is growing, harvesting, packing and holding the produce.
That’s because the regulations only apply to farms, which are generally defined as those establishments that actually grow and harvest the produce. Facilities that only pack and hold produce must follow the new regulations if they are majority owned by a farm that grows and harvests the produce. But non-farm packing and holding facilities can choose between following the new regulations or following current good manufacturing practices. Establishments that only hold or transport produce are not required to follow either.
What’s more, not all farms are covered under the new regulations. Farms that on average sell less than $25,000 per year of produce aren’t covered by the regulations at all. And farms that sell an average of less than $500,000 of food each year may seek an exemption from the regulations if the amount of produce they sell each year direct to consumers or to restaurants and retail establishments within the same state or less than 275 miles away exceeds the amount of all other food sales.
The smaller and more local the farms, the less likely it is that they must follow the new regulations. If produce is packaged and held by a middleman, they may not have to follow the new regulations either.
So how does a food manufacturer develop the knowledge necessary to have some power over what enters its facility, and over what risks to accept in sourcing produce? Well, if produce comes directly from a farm covered under the new regulations, the manufacturer should make sure that its supply contract requires the farm to provide regular certification that its produce has been grown, harvested, packed and held in compliance with the regulations.
The same goes for produce coming from a packing and holding facility that is majority farm owned. But even if the produce comes from a non-farm packing and holding facility, manufacturers can seek reassurance of safety in several ways. They can require certification that suppliers comply either with the produce safety regulations or with current good manufacturing practices. If manufacturers have strong bargaining power over non-farm suppliers, they might even consider requiring that the supplier voluntarily comply with all or some of the produce safety regulations. Or manufacturers could require that the supplier obtain certification from the grower that the produce was grown and harvested in compliance with the produce regulations or (for non-covered or exempt farms) that the grower otherwise complied with current good manufacturing practices.
Even if produce comes from non-covered or exempt farms, manufacturers may still consider asking the farm to follow basic practices that mitigate the risk of contamination, such as making bathrooms and handwashing stations easily accessible.
At this point, you’re probably asking, “But what about the pickles, Jennifer?”
Under the rules, covered produce does not include that which will receive commercial processing that adequately reduces the presence of microorganisms of public health significance. Examples of such commercial processing include processing in accordance with the requirements of the FDA’s acidified foods regulation found at CFR, 21, 114, which governs pickles among other foods.
Although the farm that grew the cucumbers may not have had to comply with the produce regulations, the pickle producer must still comply with regulations applicable to the pickling process. Food manufacturers should ensure that their supply contract with their pickle supplier requires the supplier to certify that the pickles were processed in compliance with the acidified foods regulation.
At a minimum, manufacturers should keep good records showing who grew, harvested, packed and held their produce, so that in the event of an outbreak of a foodborne illness, they can provide the FDA with essential information to help determine the source. Manufacturers should also ensure that their supply contracts contain provisions requiring suppliers to notify them whenever the suppliers have reason to suspect that produce may have become contaminated.
After all, a burger is only as good as its toppings.
The St. Paul, Minn., company debuted new automation technology in January that gives food safety professionals new options to rapidly and accurately image, count and document microbiological colonies on 3M Petrifilm Plates indicator tests. By rapidly automating the colony-counting step of 3M Petrifilm Plates, the 3M Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced saves food safety labs time and increases productivity.
“Food safety is always a top concern globally, but challenges related to COVID-19 have put additional pressure on organizations to maximize resources,” says Elliott Zell, 3M Food Safety global new product marketing manager. “3M is in a unique position to help the food and beverage industry maximize the efficiency of the critical tests it manages each day.”
Perfex’s Squeegee 9500 series floor squeegee features dual-mounted PVC blades that provide double service, one blade wipes the surface while the other acts as a splash guard. The lightweight and durable squeegee, made in the U.S. using Department of Agriculture- and Food and Drug Administration-approved materials, is now available in eight vibrant colors such as blue, green or yellow. Prefex said it is tear-resistant, non-marring, non-conductive and chemical resistant. It also shouldn’t rust or corrode and is unaffected by water, oil, grease, detergents, sanitizer and solvents.
The company’s patented Lite-N-Tite connection system makes swapping blades a snap, and a unique socket design locks the handle in for a tight fit, promising no more broken handles. The lightweight and ergonomic handle adjusts from 34-62 inches to optimize working posture and cleaning efficiency.