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FOOD-FRIENDLY PEST CONTROL PRODUCTS

Do you know which products are safe for use in food handling premises? Clive Withinshaw, director of HACCP Australia, offers his professional advice. 

HACCP Australia’s certification is carried by the best in the business and here’s why!

Food businesses are required by law to prevent pests from entering their food premises and to eradicate pests that find their way inside.

Over and above the law, many food businesses in Australia operate food safety management systems, which have additional requirements for pest management activities on food sites. Well-known food safety management system standards include BRC, SQF, Codex HACCP, as well as supermarkets’ own standards. These schemes are generically known as ‘HACCP food safety management programs’.

What is HACCP?

HACCP is a methodology that is used as the core of risk based food safety management systems, which are like quality systems but very much more focussed on the control of food safety hazards. HACCP, as a methodology, is codified by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

HACCP Australia is a certification company specialising in food safety and owns and operates a certification scheme for suppliers of non-food goods and services
to the food industry. Certified companies include
both product and service providers. Its auditors and evaluators are university degree qualified food scientists with a minimum of 10 years of experience in food manufacturing.

All food businesses in Australia can expect to be audited on a regular basis by regulatory authorities and/or representatives of food safety certification bodies. Table 1 describes the requirements for various types of food businesses in Australia.

Food service and retail customers often have the most stringent requirements with respect to food safety and this extends to strict rules for pest management activities. Food manufacturers are audited by various organisations on a frequent basis. During the audits, auditors examine everything that happens on site that is related to food safety, including food handling processes, equipment, buildings, cleanliness, written procedures, training plans, purchasing policies and pest management records. Some audits take more than two days to complete.

Pest management documentation is a common source of non-conformities, while all chemicals present a substantial risk. When it comes to pest management on a food site, auditors look at all the actions of the contractor and this includes the choice and suitability of the chemicals and their application.

Contrary to assertions by some in the pest management industry, a Pest Management Protocol forms an integral part of a HACCP program. It is an essential component. Furthermore, the requirements of food safety standards are becoming more stringent. Increasingly, food businesses must be diligent in verifying that pest management activities are conducted with strict controls and with every precaution taken to minimise food safety risks. Food-safe and appropriate chemical selection is critical to this process.

It is important that pest management organisations define which products are used on a food site, including those which could be used in areas where food is exposed, such as during manufacturing, packing, preparation, serving or storage. Food businesses that operate HACCP programs are required to formally agree as to which products may be used. This is usually managed through a scope of work that includes approved products. Products on that list must have been assessed with respect to food safety and found to be fit for use in food handling areas by a person or organisation competent to make such an assessment. Products that are not on the register must not be used on the site without the explicit written permission of the food business.

Due diligence and food safety certification

While food businesses may conduct their own due diligence selection, providing they have the appropriate expertise and knowledge, expert third party certification is the commonly preferred method. HACCP Australia’s certification scheme is designed to meet that precise need, confirming not only the suitability of a product but also the areas within a food business where such products are appropriate for use. Several pest management solution providers are certified by HACCP Australia. Bayer, BASF, Bell Laboratories, FMC and Syngenta have all invested heavily in ensuring their food industry products are absolutely suitable for this purpose. Devices from Starkeys, UVP, Flick and Weepa also carry the mark on some excellent equipment.

When evaluating products for certification, HACCP Australia examines all the characteristics that the due diligence process requires and certified products must meet the standard in each of these. HACCP Australia’s register of certified products (‘tools and downloads’ page at www.haccp.com.au) is a useful way for service providers to reference as to which products are suitable for use in food businesses and where within a food facility, they can be applied.

Service providers can have full confidence in listed products when specifying for food handling sites. If they are not listed, expert research is essential. HACCP Australia’s evaluation scientists are available to give advice about certified products to any service provider. Below are just some of the evaluation considerations.

Assessing a pest management product for suitability toxicity/allergens

The mammalian toxicity and human allergenicity of the product are considered in terms of the risk of the product getting into food or on to food equipment in an error scenario. Bio-accumulation potential and availability of antidotes for actives is also considered. As well as active ingredients, hazards associated with other components such as solvents, carriers and attractants are important.

Human food allergens can present greater risks to consumers than active ingredients when they are present in products that are designed to be used near foods, such as insecticide gels. If a person who is allergic to seafood is exposed to a tiny drop of gel, the ‘active ingredient’ is unlikely to do them any harm, however if the gel contains a fish-powder attractant that tiny drop of gel could kill them in minutes.

Contamination

The shape and design of products and their packaging is considered as well as the expected delivery method and any potential incorrect usage. The crumbliness of a rodent block or the consistency of a gel product, or the ease of using a surface spray for aerial spraying in error are all factors that can affect the likelihood of contamination.

Under Australian food law, food businesses may not sell food that contains any undeclared materials, even if the food business itself is unaware of their presence and even if the undeclared materials are completely ‘safe’. This means that even a ‘harmless’ food contamination event, such as a light overspray of pyrethroid product, causes a food business to be in breach of the law.

Packaging and equipment

Can be a source of physical contaminants, such as small pieces of plastic that could get lost in a food handling area.

Instructions

that accompany the product should make it clear as to a product’s suitability for use in food premises and for which pests. Detailed instructions about how, where and at what rate the product can be applied are essential.

HACCP Australia considers all these factors among many others when evaluating pest management products. The world’s leading food safety schemes require food businesses to show evidence of due diligence in the selection of products that might have a significant impact on food safety. Pest products are high on the radar.

Best practice for product use in food premises

  • Manufactured such that they are of consistent composition and traceable to a single production lot through identifiable batch or lot identification.
  • Accompanied by instructions that properly describe method and usage in food sites and describe methods to minimise the risk of food contamination.
  • If designed to be used near exposed food, such as indicator monitoring rodent blocks or cockroach gels, should be free from all significant human food allergens (and there is quite a list).
  • Packaging that will be carried into food handling areas, such as gel cartridges, should be designed to minimise the risk of contamination. Brightly coloured caps with retainers are best practice.
  • Granular products are not suitable for use in food handling areas.
  • Liquid rodenticides are not suitable for use on food sites except in external areas under special circumstances and only with prior written permission from the client.
  • Unsecured ‘throw packs’ are not suitable for use on food sites, except when secured inside bait stations on fence lines.
  • Tracking powders not be used in food handling areas.

Clive Withinshaw, Director, HACCP Australia

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