As the applications of connected devices continues to drive innovation and create exciting possibilities throughout the food processing industry, the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) on pest management in the food supply chain is already easy to recognize. An ecosystem of connected devices streamlines several processes that are integral to an effective integrated pest management plan, providing convenience and saving time for both food manufacturers and their pest management partners. From creating a smart network of devices that detect changes and track movement in the pest population to seamless reporting procedures that cut down on paperwork, we’re already seeing the benefits of a more connected world on a very important aspect of food safety.
Judy Black will host a free webinar, along with her colleague Jeff Robbins, director of commercial pest marketing, on the applications of IoT in pest management throughout the food supply chain on Wednesday, Aug. 9 at 1:00 pm ET/10:00 am PT. Register hereAt the ground level—often quite literally—we have networked traps for pests ranging from stored product insects to rodents. Each trap tracks the pests it captures and reports its readings to a central hub in real time, providing an instant snapshot of changes in the pest population and triggering notifications when that population exceeds pre-set parameters—well before the pests create an issue. Beyond knowing when a pest population increases in a facility, this network of connected monitoring devices can pinpoint where those pests are congregating, allowing the facility’s pest management partner to identify and eliminate the source of the issue quickly.
Beyond those devices on the front lines, the IoT also has a major impact on the behind-the-scenes management of pest management processes. With the increase in reporting requirements brought on by the adoption of FSMA earlier in the decade came a lot of new paperwork for food manufacturers. On the pest management front, the paper trail required to track the steps taken to reduce the risk of pest infestation represents a significant commitment of time and effort on the part of facility managers. Working with a pest management partner that understands the opportunities connected devices provide means less paperwork; a centralized online hub allows facility managers to review their partner’s recommendations, indicate the steps they’ve taken to address issues and close the loop without having to touch a file cabinet.
The availability of this pest-tracking data allows forward-thinking pest management companies to be more efficient and better informed. By compiling and analyzing this data, they can identify regional trends in pest populations, allowing them to be better prepared to recognize and resolve pest issues early and to stay ahead of cyclical fluctuations in the pest population.
We often talk about technology in terms of the impact it will have in the future, but in the pest management business, we’re already seeing the benefits of a connected ecosystem of devices. While the technology will continue to evolve and improve, it’s important for food manufacturers to recognize the benefits of working with a pest management partner that embraces the IoT. By streamlining and centralizing the processes of monitoring and reporting on pest management practices, this technology saves time and reduces the risks pests pose throughout the food supply chain.
It’s no surprise that food manufacturing and processing environments are naturally vulnerable to food safety threats. Food processing environments have all the things a pest needs to thrive: Food, water and shelter. And if poor sanitation is added to the mix, pests can find your food processing plant absolutely irresistible.
An unkempt facility can attract flies, ants, cockroaches and other unwanted common pests such as rodents. All of these common pests could put you or your facility at risk during your next audit.
The good news is pest-related sanitation issues are preventable through proactive and holistic preventive treatment plans. It’s important to establish proper sanitation processes and procedures so that over time, you avoid or reduce the occurrence of pest problems that could cost you major points on an audit and potentially compromise your products.
Many food processing facilities employ integrated pest management (IPM), an approach that helps prevent pest activity before it occurs and uses chemical treatments only as a last resort. The goal with these types of treatments is to give facility managers tools to use in advance of their next audit to stay ahead of pests, to teach employees good practices and to avoid problems before they happen. A good IPM program includes careful documentation of pest issues and the conducive conditions relating to them, as well as any corrective actions taken to resolve them. This documentation is incredibly important not just in solving pest problems, but also in its relevance to FSMA regulations.
When talking to pest management providers, remember that a “one-size fits all” strategy often doesn’t work, so expect your pest control company to recommend a customized plan. Different environments have different “hot spots” (areas where pests typically are present if the conditions are right) and face different pest pressures. However, there are a few key best practices that can be applied to any facility to help protect against pests.
The following guidelines will help to minimize pest activity and prepare for your facility’s next audit.
1. Educate and Enlist Your Employees in the Fight Against Pests
The first step to establishing your sanitation plan is enlisting your staff. One of the strongest building blocks in your defense against pest activity is sanitation. This key component of your IPM plan begins with the vigilance of your employees. Sanitation and pest management aren’t one-and-done tasks. They’re ongoing and you’ll get the best results when the entire staff is on board.
How can they help? Your employees are often the first to notice any potential signs of existing problems, so it’s important to educate them on hot spots where pests could live, what signs they should look for, and what to do if they see a pest issue. Once your employees understand the importance of sanitation, set a zero-tolerance policy for spills, debris and waste. If employees spot a pest, make sure they understand the protocols for documenting its presence. Consider implementing daily, weekly and monthly sanitation routines in addition to an annual deep cleaning.
Finally, enlist your employees to help keep common areas clean, from break rooms to locker rooms. Establish processes to clean up dirty dishes and drink spills, and empty full trash bins immediately. Don’t forget about cleaning the bins themselves! Also, make sure that common refrigerators aren’t filled with past-expiration lunches or snacks. If you’re finding it tough to get employees to participate, most pest management providers will offer a free education program to make employees aware of potential risks and what they can do to help. Sometimes it can help employees to hear from the experts.
2. What’s on the Inside Counts
As the saying goes, what’s on the inside really matters. This is true for the interior sanitation of your processing facility, too. There are a few particularly vulnerable hotspots to be conscious of when putting together your sanitation plan, especially the production floor, the storage areas and the receiving areas.
For obvious reasons, the production floor is one of the most important areas of focus for your sanitation program. Any hygiene issue could directly impact and expose your food products to contamination. Pests love to make their homes in big equipment that is often difficult to access for cleaning. Improper sanitation may lead to bacteria growth on the production line, which poses a major food safety threat. Create a schedule so that all equipment and machinery are sanitized regularly, and don’t forget about paying extra attention to those out-of-sight areas.
Drain flies and other pests live around drains and drain lids. Both should be scrubbed and sanitized regularly to prevent buildup of grease and other gunk that can attract pests. Organic, professional cleaning solutions are a great option to break down tough stains and grime on floors and around drains. These organic cleaners use naturally occurring enzymes and beneficial bacteria to degrade stains, grime and other organic matter build up, which helps reduce the likelihood of drain flies and other pests.
Storage areas are also prone to attracting pests and the potential bacteria they harbor. These cluttered spaces can get filled with extra boxes and other debris, and are perfect locations for pests to hide. Keep these areas clean and clear of clutter so pests have fewer areas to seek shelter and reproduce.
Cockroaches especially love cardboard boxes, so take those to recycling facilities regularly. Remove any equipment that is not being used. If you have re-sealable containers, clean out all the containers before placing new products inside. All containers should be tightly sealed and kept six inches off the floor and 18 inches away from walls. You can also affix mops and other types of cleaning equipment to the wall. Keeping them off the ground will keep them dry and prevent them from sitting in standing water, which is a major hot spot for fly breeding and bacteria build up.
Don’t forget that pests are experts at squeezing under receiving doors and sneaking onto shipments. To prevent unwanted stowaways, ensure your exterior doors form a tight seal when closed and always give delivery trucks and incoming shipments a thorough inspection for pest activity. Pests love to sneak into any opening they can find, so keep building exits, loading docks and other entrances closed as much as possible. Install weather stripping and door sweeps to keep pests out by creating a tight seal around openings. Believe it or not, rats can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter, mice through a gap the size of a dime, and crawling insect pests through spaces barely noticeable to the human eye. For other cracks and crevices, use weather-resistant sealants to close any openings and consider installing metal mesh for an extra layer of protection against rodents that can gnaw openings to get inside.
3. Don’t Forget the Great Outdoors
To keep your exterior spic and span, create and maintain a regular sanitation schedule for your building’s exterior so it doesn’t become a haven for pests.
Regular pressure washings of sidewalks and walls will knock away any debris or build-up on exterior surfaces and could help remove any bird droppings around the property that could be brought inside by foot traffic. While it seems like a no-brainer, keep dumpsters and recycling collections as far away from facilities as possible, and make sure they are cleaned and sanitized frequently. And like interior cleaning best practices, don’t neglect areas above or out of the line of sight like gutters and rooftop ledges. Sometimes, leaves, standing water and other debris can build up over time, which provides breeding areas and shelter for pests—especially mosquitoes.
Did you know that flies are not just attracted to food processing facilities because of food smells, but also for their exterior lighting? Flies and other flying insects are attracted to light and may use it for orientation. Mercury-vapor lighting is especially attractive to flies, so consider swapping mercury-vapor lamps next to entryways with sodium-vapor lights or LEDs. And to lure flies away from your building, place your facility’s mercury-vapor lighting at least 100 feet from entrances. It is often important to remember that the best option is always to direct lighting towards a building rather than mount lighting on it.
Good outdoor pest maintenance also includes landscaping. Trim your trees often and keep plants at least 12 inches away from your building. This decreases the chance of pests using vegetation as breeding or nesting grounds and the chances they’ll get access to your facility. Standing water often becomes a breeding site and moisture source that could provide pests like flies, mosquitoes and rodents with water necessary for survival. Remove any standing water around your building to prevent this and remove any reason for those pests to stick around. Look for stagnant water in gutters, ponds, birdbaths, water fountains and any other places that water could sit for more than a week without moving.
These proactive pest management tips will be useful in protecting your building and products from food safety threats. If there are any tasks that require additional help, consider talking to your pest management provider about creating an IPM plan. They will walk through your facility with you to identify any hotspots and suggest potential corrective actions—you’ll be glad you did when it’s time for your next audit.
The food processing environment is ripe with hot spots where biofilm can hide. A rapid biological hygiene indicator in the form of a spray gel has been developed to provide companies with a visual indication of biofilm on a surface. Once the gel makes contact with biofilm it produces foam within two minutes. Manufactured by Sterilex, Indicon Gel does not require mixing and is appropriate for seek-and-destroy missions. It enables detection of microorganisms that include Listeria, E.coli and Salmonella on both large surfaces as well as niches that cannot be accessed by a swab.
While building an effective logistics strategy, the end goal of supply chain management (SCM) needs to be kept in mind (i.e., allowing each member of the supply chain to achieve efficient inventory management as well as reach its customer service goals). To this end, it’s important to share information that will help each member achieve success. This includes data relating to demand forecasts, anticipated lead times and safety stock quantities. Let’s look at SCM best practices for food manufacturing and supply, and how this information plays a role.
Effective SCM: Best Practices for the Food Industry
Here’s an overview of SCM best practices in food supply and manufacturing:
Learn more about managing your supply chain at the Best Practices in Food Safety Supply Chain conference | June 5–6, 2017 | LEARN MOREDemand Forecasts. This is generally based on demand, sales or usage patterns in the past. However, future demand can be affected by changing situations such as:
Increased/decreased product popularity
Introduction of new products
Short-term increase in demand through promotions, etc.
Better estimates can be achieved with an effective derived demand or a CPFR (collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment) system. This can be done through automated data collection, or by the following process:
Identifying customers who can predict future demand (i.e., what they may use or sell in the future)
Collecting demand forecasts about specific products from them
Comparing these forecasts against their actual purchases on a monthly basis
Helping them improve future predictions by sharing this data with them
Customers may overestimate demand, but you might consider offering a discount based on accurate forecasts to encourage better results. In addition, you should also consider these five elements:
Usage patterns in the past, not including CPFR data
Increasing/decreasing product popularity trends
Higher/lower seasonal usage or demand
Events/promotions in the near future
Market and industry data from sources such as management, sales, etc.
“Drop the Mop! Take a Clean New Look at Condensation Control in Food Processing Facilities” is available on-demand Little beads of water on overhead surfaces can cause big problems. Remember the Listeria contamination that affected Blue Bell Creameries? FDA investigators spotted condensation dripping right into food and food contact surfaces. In a response to an FDA Form 483, Blue Bell wrote “As part of our internal review, we are extensively reconfiguring lines and equipment to eliminate the potential for condensation forming on pipes above processing equipment”.
Condensation can form on overhead surfaces during sanitation processes, which poses potentially serious issues. During an upcoming webinar, “Drop the Mop! Take a Clean New Look at Condensation Control in Food Processing Facilities”, experts from the University of Nebraska, Maple Leaf Foods, General Mills, Smithfield Foods, and 3M Corporate Research Materials Laboratory will discuss tips on how to manage condensation, along with the challenges associated with condensation.
Learn more about mitigate risks in the supply chain by attending the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference, June 5–6, 2017 in Rockville, MD | LEARN MOREEver heard of silver dihydrogen citrate (SDC)? The patented molecule is a new antimicrobial being used to kill potentially deadly pathogens in places from food processing facilities to restaurants. SDC is non-toxic and has an EPA toxicity rating of IV (the lowest category).
At the Food Safety Consortium last month, Hank Lambert, CEO of Pure Bioscience, talked about how the technology his company developed can help the food industry control pathogens (including Listeria mitigation), along with its differentiating characteristics versus other disinfectants. He also gave a preview of the applications in which the company will pursue FDA and USDA approval this year.
Recorded: 2/23/2017 – Condensation. This webinar takes a look at how cold food processing facilities manage condensation formed on overhead surfaces during sanitation. Food processing facility experts will discuss a way to help reduce dripping during production with a new method of managing condensation as well as increasing productivity, eliminating manual intervention and saving money
It is critical that the heat transfer fluids (HTFs) used in the manufacturing sector are used appropriately and managed safely. Food-grade HTFs are highly refined petroleum mineral oils that are non-toxic, non-irritating and lack an odor. If a food grade HTF has been certified for use in food processing, it carries a HT-1 certificate (e.g., Globaltherm FG). Food-grade HTFs are commonly referred to as being non-fouling, which means that as they thermally degrade, they produce small carbon particles that are suspended in the HTF. This means the carbon formations are less sticky, thereby reducing the extent of adhesion to the internal surfaces of a HTF system. A recent report analyzed the test reports from HTF systems and showed carbon residue was lower for food-grade HTFs than mineral-based HTFs.1 This demonstrates the non-fouling nature of food-grade HTFs. The report recommended the independent assessment of HTFs to ensure food manufacturers and producers are using food-grade HTFs.
The HTF sector was estimated to be worth $2.8 billion in 2015 and is projected to grow by 6.8% over the next 5 years.2 Heat transfer refers to the transfer of thermal energy, and fluids are used to transfer heat energy from a heat source to processing equipment where heat is needed. This is a basic requirement in a wide variety of industrial processes, including the processing of foodstuffs such as crackers or any foods that come in a packet.
Food-grade HTFs are non-toxic, odorless and appear transparent like water, but they clearly should not be confused with water.1 Indeed, a food-grade HTF is a highly refined petroleum mineral oil and consists of a complex combination of hydrocarbons obtained from the intensive treatment of a petroleum fraction with sulphuric acid and oleum, by hydrogenation or by a combination of hydrogenation and acid treatment.
Food-grade HTFs are the most likely HTF to be used in the processing of foods provided they are judged to be safe for incidental contact with food. This certification is governed by two well-known bodies—the NSF and InS. In the case of the NSF, the components comprising a fluid are assessed for safety by a toxicologist and, if deemed safe, are awarded a HT-1 certification and can be used for incidental contact. In some cases the use of so-called food-grade HTFs is stipulated by insurers and food retailers, and certain manufacturers will be routinely audited to ensure that an appropriate HTF is being used in the processing of food. Another advantage of a HT-1 certification is that it is associated with fewer handling complaints than other fluids.
In the case of the United Kingdom, Global Heat Transfer, part of the Global Group of Companies, estimates that around 20% of all HTF systems are involved in the processing of food. The use of a food-grade HTF is recommended, but its use is not regulated. However, HTF leaks do occasionally occur. In 1998 more than 490,000 pounds of smoked boneless hams were recalled by Smithfield Foods after several customers reported a “bad taste” and “burning in their throat”, which lasted up to three hours.3 The cause was incidental contact with a non-food grade gear lubricant.
In the context of food processing, good manufacturing practice (GMP) prerequisites combined with the application of risk-based Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) according to Codex Alimentarius principles alongside first-, second- and third-party quality audits in the supply chain are used to ensure food is managed safely both during processing and when being distributed to the consumer. In addition, industrial insurers work closely with manufacturers to ensure commercial operations are adequately insured and as part of this process, may stipulate the use of a food-grade HTF and how it should be maintained.
There is no specific legislation to ensure that food grade HTFs are used in the processing of food, so it is the responsibility of the food business owner to ensure food safety throughout the supply chain and more pointedly to design plant, equipment and premises such as to protect against the accumulation of dirt, contact with toxic materials and the shedding of particles into food.
However, as outlined in the Smithfield Foods case, there is the potential for the food to come into contact with an HTF during processing. It is important to consider a few scenarios where a food may be contaminated with an HTF.
Scenario 1. The HTF may be managed by the manufacturer according to HACCP if directly involved in the processing of a product or by GMP prerequisites if the HTF forms part of the facility and services to the production line. Either system will not allow any amount of HTF to be present in food. In the event of incidental contact with food, the manufacturer may choose to dispose of all food. In this scenario, a mineral-based HTF may be used rather than a food-grade HTF.
Scenario 2. The HTF is managed according to the stipulations from the retailer. In this scenario the retailer may stipulate that a food-grade HTF is used. The HTF would be checked during auditing. However, this would be a paper-based audit, and so the HTF would never be physically sampled and analyzed.
Scenario 3. The insurer stipulates the use if a food-grade HTF. Like scenario 2, adoption would be assessed during audits of a facility and paper-based checks would be conducted. Like scenario 2, however, the HTF would never be physically sampled and analyzed. In this case the insurer may be more concerned with the safety of the system and may be more interested in the sampling reports and parameters, such as annual sampling frequency and flash point temperature of the HTF.
The gap highlighted in scenarios 2 and 3 is that a food-grade HTF would never actually be physically analyzed onsite. HTF sampling and chemical analysis is quick and easy to conduct, and can be conducted by professional companies without interrupting production.
This article makes the case for checking that non-fouling, NSF or InS certified food-grade heat transfer fluids are being used in food production. This can be achieved using independent sampling that can be conducted on-site as requested and shared with all stakeholders including the insurer, to show the HTF is being managed and that the HTF system is safe; the retailer, to demonstrate that an appropriate food-grade HTF is being used during the processing of food; and external auditors, to demonstrate that production is consumer safe.
Wright CI, Bembridge T, Picot E, Premel J, Food processing: the use of non-fouling food grade heat transfer fluids. Applied Thermal Engineering 2015: 84; 94-103.
Managers in food processing facilities are under more pressure than ever to get their product out the door quickly, but they cannot sacrifice safety. A new technology developed by 3M can help them quickly identify potential contamination in their facility, which can help them determine whether to stop production. The Clean-Trace Hygiene Monitoring and Management System is a handheld luminometer that was developed with the help of food manufacturing professionals in positions from plant floor operators to company executives.
“We involved customers throughout the development and design of the entire system to automate and streamline what is in many cases a tedious, manual process of selecting test points, assigning them daily, conducting tests, documenting results, managing sample plans, and developing quality improvement measures,” said Tom Dewey, 3M Food Safety global marketing manager in a press release.
The company made improvements to the device’s industrial design to make it more durable and user friendly. Other features include reengineered optical technology with photomultiplier detectors; upgraded software with a streamlined dashboard; and the capability to transfer data between the luminometer and the software via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.
When you choose a new vendor to partner with you, the decision is always important. Every vendor plays a role in your business and bottom line.
Some vendors, like pest control providers, can protect your brand and even help boost your reputation in the industry. When you factor in everything your pest control program can affect, it’s clear that picking the right pest management provider is one of the most important vendor decisions you’ll have to make.
Consider how pest management can impact your audit scores, especially when you’re expected to be audit-ready at any time. The success of your third-party audit hinges on documentation, and the pest management portion can make all the difference in your score, accounting for up to 20%. FSMA requires food processing facilities to execute proactive pest control programs and documentation efforts that not only follow and but also implement a risk-based prevention program to protect their product and consumer base. Just one low score can cause your customers to lose trust in your business—and if they pull their support, you could see a major impact on your balance sheet.
The safety of your products and even the health of your employees are also at stake. Cockroaches and ants can pick up and transfer harmful bacteria. Flies can spread disease-causing organisms when they land—and they land frequently, it can lead to them leaving their traces in an abundance of places.
Then there are rodents, which can also cause serious health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rats and mice are known to spread bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli, as well as more than 35 diseases worldwide, such as Hantavirus.
A Blueprint for Success
From its impact on audit scores to its role in abating health concerns to brand protection, pest control should be a priority for any food processing facility. There are several best practices to follow, most of them falling under the umbrella of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is the preferred proactive pest management practice in the food processing business, and it can help meet and exceed the requirements of industry auditors.
IPM programs are ongoing, comprehensive and well-documented, focusing on risk-based preventive strategies like sanitation and facility maintenance to help prevent pest activity. They’re also customizable based on your property and the pests you face.
It’s essential to find the right, licensed and experienced pest management professional who will partner with you and your staff to implement a customized IPM program for your facility and help keep pest problems away. When starting your search for a pest management partner, be sure to ask about IPM. One-size-fits-all pest management solutions are simply not effective, so look for a provider who can tailor an IPM program specifically to your needs.
When searching for a pest management partner, look for one that stands out with the following guidelines.
Talk to your peers. If you’re looking for pest management recommendations, start by talking to your industry colleagues about the successes—or challenges—they’ve had with their vendors. If you’re a member of a larger network or GPO, you may have a preferred provider in which to start your search.
Start with an inspection. Once you have a list of options to check out, it’s time to put them to the test. As IPM programs are customizable, insist that your prospects inspect your facility to determine the challenges you face and the services you need.
Get the details in writing. Remember, FSMA requires written risk-based preventive food safety plans that detail likely hazards, corrective actions and results. With this in mind, your pest management professional should thoroughly document any service visits and corrective actions.
Documenting your pest management plan does more than fulfill the FSMA requirement. The best pest management providers will document their every move, using the information to determine pest trends, which can aid in decisions about how to best manage pest activity going forward. These records should be kept on-site for any surprise audits.
Ask for audit help. In addition to documentation, your pest management professional should work with you to ensure all documents are in proper order and audit-ready at any time. Look for a provider that can help you prepare for the third-party auditor and food safety standards with which your facility is required to comply, and even provide on-site support the day of your audit.
Think about your entire staff. One of the most overlooked variables when choosing a pest management provider isn’t how the company works in your facility, it’s how it works with your staff. For your new pest management program to be effective, your staff has to buy in—and your new provider can help.
Your employees play an important role in reporting pest sightings and keeping your facility clean. With this in mind, make sure to ask about resources that your pest management professional can offer your staff. Many offer staff training and educational resources like tip sheets and checklists, and often at no extra cost.
Add accountability, establish thresholds. You may pick an outstanding pest management partner, but ideal results won’t happen overnight. Depending on your facility, creating a pest-free environment can be difficult, even with the best of help.
Progress is achievable and quantifiable when you have pest thresholds. Thresholds dictate how much and what kind of pest activity is acceptable before corrective actions need to be taken, and they are best set by working with your pest control professional because several factors can come into play.
Older facilities or buildings in environments more conducive to pest activity, such as areas near water, locales in warm environments or heavily wooded spaces, may face more pest pressures than newer establishments. Your pest management professional may want to counter these challenges with exclusion recommendations that can include extensive building maintenance and repairs.
If you’re in a newer building and don’t currently battle any present pest issues, it may be perfectly reasonable to move forward with a “one pest is one too many” threshold. To make sure your program stays this effective, your provider may need to adjust tactics of your IPM program over time.
Even with a sound IPM plan, however, if you are currently battling pests like cockroaches, flies or ants, reaching your threshold goals will take time. Work with your pest management provider to create a timeline for steady and reasonable improvement.
Once you choose a pest management partner, keep the lines of communication open and establish roles for everyone involved. Set benchmarks for your pest management program and specific times throughout the year to evaluate the program’s success and areas of improvement with your provider.
Keep all of this in mind, and you can help build a solid, long-lasting partnership. As a result, pest sightings can fall as your audit scores rise.