Tag Archives: pest management

Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Director of Technical Services, Orkin, LLC
Bug Bytes

Five Pest Management Tips for Restaurant Employees

By Ron Harrison, Ph.D.
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Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Director of Technical Services, Orkin, LLC

Restaurants can face major risks related to pest activity, which is why a proper Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program must be in place. However, restaurant owners are not the only ones who should play a part in the IPM program; employees should participate as well.

Often times, live pests are sighted in restaurants, which can result in immediate consequences to a restaurant owner’s bottom line. Therefore, restaurant employees should be trained on how to prevent and react to pest sightings in their establishment.

The following tips will help restaurateurs get their employees on board with pest management:

  1. Contact a pest management professional for a complimentary on-site employee training that will teach employees the importance of pest management and how it could affect the diners’ experience.
  2. Diners have zero tolerance for pests. Ensure employees know the protocol for pest sightings, which should include:
    • Catching the pest for identification
    • Recording when, where and how many pests were seen
    • Assisting your pest management professional to determine the method of treatment.
  3. The most productive way to keep all employees involved in pest management is to add one or two pest control responsibilities to their daily routine. These responsibilities should align with employees’ roles and can be as simple as regularly emptying trash cans and re-lining them, or clearing and sweeping food debris.
  4. In common employee areas, post educational materials such as sanitation checklists and pest identification sheets that provide information on common pests and potential health threats.
  5. Establish an open line of communication that encourages all employees to report pests immediately. Remember that employees can bring pests into the restaurant on their belongings from home, so it’s important that they know pest sighting reports are encouraged to prevent pest activity in areas such as break rooms, the kitchen or the dining area. Fostering an open line of communication will help restaurateurs get ahead of any pest issues and related health and safety threats.
Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Director of Technical Services, Orkin, LLC
Bug Bytes

Make Employee Training a Team Effort in Your Pest Management Program

By Ron Harrison, Ph.D.
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Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Director of Technical Services, Orkin, LLC

Pest management plays a key role in food safety and product integrity, and ensuring such is a critical, facility-wide undertaking. The success of a pest management program can be the difference between acing a third-party audit and facing a plant shutdown. An effective program is not just a one-person job; it requires an ongoing team effort from a company’s pest management provider and all employees. As such, beyond selecting an effective pest management provider, it’s equally important to recruit employees to help enhance your efforts. After all, they are the eyes and ears of your facility, as they spend a lot more time there than your pest management provider.

Arming your employees with the right tools and pest control knowledge will set up your pest management program for success. The following steps outline how you can get your entire team involved in your company’s program.

Teach the what, where and how

Your employees can be the first responders to any pest problems, but only if they know what they should be looking for and where they should be looking. For that reason, it’s essential that they complete training on the specific pest pressures your property faces and the red flags that alert them to pest activity.

Many pest control providers offer complimentary employee training, so ask your pest management professional to conduct an on-site training session for your team. These training sessions should include not only information about the specific pest pressures on your property, but also the conducive conditions and pest hot spots that your employees can help control. Pest hot spots are the key areas inside and outside your building that pests target as entry or harborage points. These areas are in constant danger of being penetrated by pests and are areas that currently or have previously had pest issues. Areas with standing water, excessive condensation or improper drainage are just a few examples.

Your pest management professional can also teach your employees the key components of integrated pest management (IPM). Rather than reacting to pest issues, IPM takes a proactive approach through a combination of non-chemical solutions, relying on chemical treatments only as a last resort. Proper sanitation practices, ongoing property maintenance to exclude pests, and regular monitoring are paramount to a pest-free facility.

Training sessions are also a great way for your employees and provider to build a strong relationship so your team is more likely to proactively report any pest issues.

Keep the lines of communication open

An open, ongoing line of communication between management, employees and your pest management provider is also an important component of successful pest management programs. Regular communication helps ensure that your employees are kept in the loop on important pest control information and initiatives. Furthermore, an open line of communication will keep you thinking proactively about pest management, which can help reduce decisions that lead to reactive chemical treatments.

This open dialogue will also help build rapport with your employees so they are more comfortable talking about sensitive issues, including the potential for bringing pests into the facility from home. 

Know your role

Your pest management program will work best when everyone involved knows his or her role. Consider assigning each team member a specific pest management task based on his or her daily duties. For instance, employees involved in facility maintenance can monitor for small holes or gaps in the building façade and seal them immediately to help prevent pest entry. 

 

In case of a pest sighting

Sometimes no matter how effective your IPM program is, resilient pests can still find their way inside your facility. Further, pest activity may not only originate locally, but from other parts of the country throughout the supply chain, making it somewhat difficult to immediately pinpoint the pest issue. This means there is a chance for both live and dead pests to make their way into your product, which can pose a nationwide health and safety threats to consumers.

With this in mind, it’s important to have a plan in place should a pest be spotted. Establish a pest sighting protocol that identifies the steps to report a pest incident, including who should be notified. The following are a few examples of steps that should be included in a pest sighting protocol:

  • If possible, catch and show the pest to your pest management professional.
  • Record the pest activity in a pest sighting report, making note of when, where and how many pests were seen.
  • Work with your pest management professional to determine what is causing the issue and how to resolve it.

Continue the education

Your employees need continued education to help keep your property on the cutting edge of pest control. Many pest management providers offer educational resources that facilities can use as ongoing education, including tip sheets, sanitation and maintenance checklists, and seasonal pest management tips. Ask your pest management provider if they have resources you can share with your team. You may also consider having your pest management professional provide further training sessions on specific pest problems.

Pest control is most successful when a team effort is involved. Work with your pest management provider to get your employees up to speed on the pest management efforts at your facility and ensure they have the basic knowledge needed to play a role in keeping pests out.

Dan Okenu, Ph.D., Food Safety Manager, H-E-B
Retail Food Safety Forum

Food Spoilage and Food Loss in Retail Environments

By Dan Okenu, Ph.D.
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Dan Okenu, Ph.D., Food Safety Manager, H-E-B

It can be frustrating to consumers to discover some rotten fruits or not-so-fresh vegetables in their grocery packs in spite of due diligence at the stores. It also leaves a bad taste in the mouth while in your favorite restaurant, you’re served cold food, observe that the taste is just not right, the color of your favorite menu is not the same again or become suspicious that the food texture has been compromised and it doesn’t feel crispy or crunchy any more.

These are the tell-tale signs of food spoilage that customers are confronted with on a daily basis. In foodservice and retail environments, food spoilage constitutes a major food safety and food quality hazard with far reaching regulatory implications as well as being an economic burden with considerable food loss and profit loss. Food manufacturers and processors have achieved a high level of food preservation through several advanced technologies including heat treatment, temperature and water control, pasteurization and canning, specialized packaging like reduced oxygen packaging, fermentation and antimicrobial preservatives. However, food spoilage remains a major challenge in retail and food service. This is mostly as a result of the many food processing and preparation activities, food storage practices, repackaging and food portioning that are required in retail.

In addition, the modern consumers’ preference for fresh foods and the backlash on the use of unnatural preservatives leave foods more vulnerable to spoilage resulting in substantial food loss. Here, we discuss some of the challenges of food spoilage and how to minimize its impact on food safety, quality assurance and profitability in retail food operations.

Spoiled ApplesThe most important proactive measure against food spoilage is a tight managerial control on Supplier Food Safety and Quality Assurance. The condition of the food items upon delivery to the retail units will impact the overall shelf life, taste, texture, structural integrity and pathogen level during storage and food preparation activities. Food transportation best practices, cold chain requirements, temperature monitoring system, freeze-thaw detection, appropriate packaging, adulteration prevention and food tracking should be addressed at the supplier level to ensure that deliveries are wholesome safe quality foods. Integrated pest management at suppliers’ facilities and delivery trucks are also essential. Random testing of food products for pathogen content and quality control will assist in compliance with FDA/USDA regulations and internal corporate standards.Thus, a comprehensive evaluation and verification of the supplier food safety and quality assurance programs will help to ensure compliance with all relevant federal/State/local regulations (see previous blog on Supplier Qualification and Compliance using GFSI Benchmarking).

After suppliers deliver safe quality foods, in-store food safety and quality assurance control measures must be activated immediately to maintain safe quality food status until food is served to the customer.

At the retail units, appropriate food handling and storage practices to eliminate cross-contamination is key.

The use of rapid cleanliness monitoring test swabs to validate clean and sanitary food contact surfaces will enable timely corrective actions that would eliminate potentially hazardous food cross-contamination.

Proper hand hygiene by all foodservice employees should be mandatory.

Keeping cold food cold and warm food warm is a food safety mantra that ensures foods don’t get to the temperature danger zone. Temperature monitoring systems for freezers and refrigerators using wireless technologies will ensure a better food storage control even during non-business hours.

Emergency preparedness training for natural disasters and power outages should be in place to avoid surprises.

Compliance with FDA regulations for safe refrigerated storage, hot holding, cooling and reheating of food within the time and temperature criteria will help eliminate spoilage organisms and preserve the taste, texture and overall quality of food throughout its shelf life, especially for meat and poultry products.

Proper management of products’ shelf life, expiration dates and observing the principle of first in first out (FIFO) should be encouraged. In fact, the food code requires a system for identifying the date or day by which food must be consumed, sold or discarded. Product date marking enables compliance with this food code requirement to date mark all prepared food products, and to demonstrate a procedure that ensures proper discarding of food products on or before the date of expiration. Local health inspectors reference these product date marking labels and enforce them, in addition to food prep activities that may lead to cross-contamination, adulteration or spoilage. Inventory control, forecasting and Lean Six Sigma are important tools for managing food supplies, storage, preparation, stock replenishing and elimination of excess food items that may get past their shelf life.

Raw proteins (meat, sea food and poultry) are arguably the largest cross-contamination sources for pathogens in foodservice. Any novel pathogen reduction or elimination process like the potential production of pathogen-free chicken would be a welcome relief, and will not only save money and labor; it would protect the public health as well.

Produce (fruits and vegetables) remains the largest source of foodborne illness outbreaks in United States, because it’s a ready-to-eat food that doesn’t get the benefit of cooking at high sterilizing temperatures. An effective pathogen kill step for produce using consumer-friendly natural washes like electrolyzed water may serve as a gate keeper in case the safety system fails at the plant level. Ice-cold electrolyzed water is also known to refresh produce and may extend their shelf life as well.

GMO-food products could be engineered to resist pests and spoilage organisms with improved shelf life, but its general acceptability and the FDA labeling disclosure requirements are still contentious issues.

While industry is racing to develop several promising anti-spoilage technologies, active managerial control of the various components of an effective food safety and quality assurance system remains the best practice against food spoilage and associated food losses in retail food operations.

Dr. Jim Fredericks, Chief Entomologist & Vice President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs, National Pest Management Association
Bug Bytes

Why is Pest Management Critical to Food Manufacturing Operations

By Dr. Jim Fredericks
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Dr. Jim Fredericks, Chief Entomologist & Vice President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs, National Pest Management Association

Every manager of a food manufacturing plant knows that food safety cannot be compromised under any circumstances and that the entire process is dependent on a number of aspects working effectively, efficiently and in a healthy and safe manner. However, no process is foolproof and any breakdown in the manufacturing process could lead to contamination. Some of the most pervasive contaminants come as a result of insects, rodents and other pathogens finding their way into the plant. It is for this reason that pest management is critical to food manufacturing.

Depending on the type of food product and how it is processed, there are ample opportunities for pests to associate themselves into the food manufacturing life cycle – be it during the growth cycle, at harvest, within the mode of transportation, during material preparation and final processing.

Fortunately, today’s scientific equipment provides the ability to detect amounts of contaminated materials in a given finished product down to the nanogram and “zero” continues to get smaller and smaller with each advancement in chemical [contaminate] detection technology. However, as plant science and seed chemistry improve, so does yield production. With this production increase comes additional processes that create opportunity for pest threats to enter food-manufacturing operations. In order to maintain a safe and clean facility both the food manufacturing facility manager and pest management personnel must address each issue head on.

There are a number of factors that pose challenges to proper pest management in food facilities such as the time of operation [some pests prefer daytime, while others prefer nighttime], production cycles [season of harvest can denote degree of pest infestation], maintenance schedule [how often do lines or plants shut down for cleaning and up keep], delivery schedule and flow of raw materials [when and how they enter and leave] throughout the plant. The addition of other factors, like moisture levels and temperature extremes within the construction elements of the plant, can create ideal conditions for pest harborage and nesting areas.

The world is a smaller place today and food transportation can be accomplished by multiple sources; food products are now shared across borders and oceans in a much shorter time frame than before. Due to the potential introduction of a new pest species or plant disease, it is crucial that facilities and their pest management partners develop a common platform for risk assessment, analysis and preventive controls to achieve success. Having the ability, discipline and quality control processes in place to intercept or disrupt this potential hazard are extremely important. The pest management professional is a line of defense that supports the food manufactures by inspecting, performing audits, identifying and preventing, improving and correcting hazards or situations that could cause damage, contamination or illness.

The consequences of not taking pest management seriously can be devastating to a food manufacturing company – resulting in fines, production shutdowns, closures and even bankruptcy filings. Not to mention a tarnished reputation, shaken confidence and public scrutiny of the brand and finished product. Certain failures may even create a system wide product recall compounding the negative effects.

The words ‘and’, ‘team’, ‘partner’ and ‘critical’ to describe the approach of a pest management professional and food manufacturing facility management and are key in understanding the role each plays – one to cut the risks and the other to protect, both helping each other accomplish the desired level of food safety.

Being proactive about food safety, including pest management, is paramount in protecting life and health. In the food safety industry food manufacturers work with a lot of different standards, protocols and regulations, such as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HAACP). The standards are risk-based in order to address the issues as risks to public health and food safety due to activities of pests.

FDA is trying to level the playing field on food safety with the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – the biggest change to food safety laws since the 1930’s – helping to bring together the various practices and governing agencies under a common goal – preventing food borne illness with sustainable and accountable improvements in food safety using prevention based controls.

As part of FSMA compliance, the pest management professional must be an integrated member of the food safety team. Thorough knowledge of the plant’s quality programs, manufacturing practices, approved product lists and sanitation programs is critical to success. Both pest management professionals and food manufacturing operations managers should also be aware of new pest control products and application techniques to fully offer the facility the best pest management program possible.

In all food manufacturing facilities, the pest management professional and manufacturing operations facility manager should both be prepared to:

  1. Work together with open communication.
  2. Provide training to both sides, whereas the plant team trains the pest management professional on the facility and processes with expectations of the service agreed upon. The pest management professional trains the food manufacturing team on basic pest management and where this fits into their food safety program and HACCP system.
  3. Set written expectations of services, treatments as well as a process for proper documentation. Utilize an appropriate accountability system of mapping and numbering all points of inspection, monitoring and treatment.
  4. Both parties should remain open to conversation regarding new and innovative techniques and treatment options that utilize the preventive intent of FSMA in conjunction with the concept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

The bottom line is that foodborne illness is largely preventable if everyone can be held responsible and accountable at each step they own for controlling hazards that can cause illness.