We sat down with our entomologist, Hope Bowman, to have a quick chat about food processing plants and pest control. She had a lot to say!
Q: Food processing plants have always had to deal with pest control. Is anything going on now that is making it even more difficult than it already was?
A: The stakes are higher than ever before, between the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) where there is the potential for plants to be shut down or recalls mandated and the widespread use of social media where a pest picture can be shared in an instant. More than ever, we have a worldwide market — you can have an ingredient or packing material in Europe yesterday that is in New England today. It is not only critical that pests are prevented but also that pathogen and allergen transfer is mitigated by your vendors. Having a pest provider that knows the food industry is critical not only to prevent pests but to support your other preventive control measures as well.
Q: How is Waltham Pest Services helping the food processing plants to deal with these new pests and possible new procedures?
A: We’re helping in a few ways.
Service: The service that food processing plants receive begins with the technician servicing the plant every visit. Having a technician that already knows to remove watches, wash their hands, and don appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as part of your current Good Manufacturing Practices program allows you to focus on the task at hand instead of having to repeatedly educate your vendors. In addition, Waltham technicians are certified, are internally GMP trained, and have ongoing pest training.
Identifying Pests: If a new pest arrives at the plant, the technician needs to be able to identify the pest as novel and have access to support that can be initiated quickly. Waltham Pest Services has several degreed entomologists on staff that can help identify any pest that is not ordinarily found at certain food facilities. In addition, Waltham has the resources to be able to educate plant staff on the identification of pests or the signs of pests on incoming cargo or supplies.
Food Safety Plan: Waltham can help establish thresholds and preventive controls needed for the Integrated Pest Management portion of a facility’s food safety plan. We also have years of experience with third party auditors and a Service Manager can be onsite when the audit is taking place to guide the auditor through the program and preventive measures that are in place. We’re also available to perform inspections of facilities for the plant’s vendors. For example, if there is suspicion that a packaging vendor may have a pest issue, we can help by inspecting that facility and make recommendations to solve the issue that can benefit both businesses.
Q: Will there always be new pests or could we ever get to the point where we’ve seen it all and can deal with it all?
A: There will always be new pests to us in New England. The world seems to grow smaller every year with global trade and supply chains spanning multiple continents. That’s why early detection and monitoring is important. Having monitoring devices in strategic locations where the greatest risk of entry or introduction can take place will help determine if a pest has entered a food facility. And it’s not important just to set up a Pest Management Program and forget it but also to continue to evaluate and re-evaluate when new pest threats arrive or when business needs change.
Q: One last question for you, Hope. What’s the weirdest pest you’ve heard of coming in recently?
A: One of the strangest things I personally saw was powder post beetles on pallets. At first it was thought by the customer that the beetles were found in the food, but once identified, it was determined that the powder post beetles were actually infesting the pallets. Pallets are used over and over in a variety of industries and are also repaired quite often using new wood that can introduce new pests. Normally we see powder post beetles in old barns or homes, so this was a unique location for the beetles to be.
Thank you to Hope for taking the time out of her day to answer our questions. If your food processing plant could benefit from a seasoned authority like Hope, you should contact Waltham Pest Services for expert advice and knowledge.