Pest management is a dirty word for some food manufacturers. They don't like to talk about it, and they don't like to admit that it's an integral part of their business. But let's face it - if you're a food brand in Australia worth your name in salt, then you must have a pretty serious pest management plan in place.
Having a strategy for keeping creepy crawlies out of your facility, as well as one for removing them if they find their way in, is indicative of a proactive, responsible business, not a negligent one.But, like a lot of regulation in the food manufacturing industry, knowing exactly what an effective pest management strategy looks like can be difficult.
There are a wide array of pest management standards that a brand can adhere to, depending on what products it manufactures and where those products will be sold.
Eighteen months ago, the Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association (AEPMA) penned a Code of Practice for pest management in the food industry in Australia and New Zealand.
David Gray, national president of the AEPMA, says "With the industry Code of Practice, we didn't create anything new, really. We just took the benchmarks that were there and, in a nutshell, if someone is setting up a pest management program in a food manufacturing facility and they set it up to the Australia and New Zealand Code of Practice, then they will meet the requirements of all the existing standards or codes that are out there."
The Code, which aims to define best practice in managing pests in food manufacturing, is a go-to guide not only for food brands, but also for auditors and pest management companies.
"We've added some additional value in the sense that auditors usually come from the food industry. Their expertise is in food, some of them have some experience in pest management but most don't. So we've developed this Code equally for their benefit, so they can look at it and then audit the pest management program against the Code. It gives them some KPIs that they can measure against, rather than just going in and approaching it blindly," Gray says.
"It also includes the downstream suppliers to the food industry, so the suppliers of raw materials, and things like packaging. Often the packaging plants and packaging materials come under the same stringent requirements because they're supplying into the food industry."
Abiding by the AEPMA's Code of Practice means food manufacturers will not necessarily have less regulatory I's to dot or T's to cross, but will at least know what systems and processes it needs to have in place to ensure everything's kosher, so to speak.
Stephen Ware, national executive director at the AEPMA, says "In the pest management industry, everyone knows they need pest managers, but the food manufacturers have problems because auditors turn up and different auditors have different ideas of what should happen as far as, for instance, where to put down rodent baits and traps. The Code of Practice has helped to clarify that.
"That's why [the Code] has been pretty well accepted by both the pest controllers - who don't really want to argue with everybody about where he should put the bait - and the food manufacturer - who doesn't want to have to sit down and have an argument with every auditor that comes in."