Chemical-free pest control

Celia Johnson

When it comes to vectors in food production areas, regulatory codes such as the Food Standards Code and state government food acts are clear and simple: a food premises must be pest free.

“If you’re going to operate within the law you need to be very serious about pests, especially in those locations with a propensity to rats, mice or cockroaches,” said HACCP director Martin Stone.

While pests like cockroaches are well known vectors of foodborne illnesses such as salmonella, that can potentially harm consumers if not controlled at the food processing level, treating pest problems with conventional chemical methods can also cause contamination in the food chain.

“From a food safety point of view, some of the chemicals used in pest control are quite toxic so you do not want to be in a situation where you are treating pests but leaving residual chemicals in your food,” Stone said.

Non-toxic pest control

Non-toxic pest control methods are widely implemented in Europe and more Australian manufacturers are realising the benefits of managing pests without the use of chemicals.

“Cross-contamination is a real fear and a risk manufacturers are not willing to take,” Adams Pest Control general manager Peter Taylor said.

“Although a person would need to consume a very substantial amount of the chemical to react to it, making the situation virtually impossible, using non-toxic methods reduces the possibility of cross contamination to zero — which is the better option.”

Goodman Fielder’s Country Life Bakery, a client of Adams Pest Control for over 10 years, said that when it comes to pest control solutions, non-toxic methods are essential to maintain the quality and safety of its products.

“Being a food company, we don’t want to have anything on site that could potentially contaminate products,” Country Life Bakery QA manager Jennifer Hall said.

“While some food companies do use toxic baits inside, we have moved to non-toxic solutions in order to reduce the risk as much as possible.”

Holding four international certifications, including ISO 2000 food safety standard (HACCP certification), Adams Pest Control offers clients consultation, implementation and review services to maintain high levels of on-site hygiene.

The company works with clients to establish what it is they want to achieve and then considers the constraints prohibiting them meeting their goals.

“We design pest-control strategies with the company depending on what standards they are trying to meet, whether it is the British Retail Consortium (BRC) standards or the American Institute of Baking (AIB) standards,” Taylor specified.

“We then construct a plan, including servicing frequencies, and implement it,” said Taylor.

Adams Pest Control can develop both chemical and organic solutions depending on the particular needs of a company.

“Organic producers were the first to implement non-toxic methods, but we are also able to meet this market in Australia having developed organic methods for our European clients that need to meet more stringent standards,” Taylor explained.

Mouse-traps and mobiles

Instead of using rodenticides, Adams Pest Control uses rodent-bait stations that transmit activity over the mobile network.

The mechanical trap is essentially a mouse trap but it is electronically controlled and incorporates three levels of sensors.

If the device remains open it means there are no pests, if it does not close all the way it means there is something in the trap and if it closes completely the trap has not caught anything, indicating a malfunction.

“When [the trap] catches a rodent, it kills it and transmits a message back to a mobile phone, which is important because if you have a dead rodent you need to be aware of it,” Taylor said.

“The rodent’s body can decompose on-site escalating the cross-contamination issue.”

Adams Pest Control has also introduced a new product in Australia called Cryonite, a carbon-dioxide freezing apparatus that kills small insects, cockroaches and silverfish on contact.

“It’s a contact spray but has no residual quality and leaves no stain behind,” Taylor explained.

“It is also non-toxic and uses recycled carbon dioxide so it’s not adding more into the atmosphere.”

Country Life Bakery replaced all its inside toxic bait stations with mechanical traps approximately four months ago and now only uses the baits on the outside of the building.

“We will also begin using Cryonite shortly which will be really efficient inside the bakery where there is food and food contact areas,” Hall said.

Web-based monitoring

As well as providing pest solutions, Adams Pest Control continually monitors a company’s sites and compiles web-based reports that can be accessed by both the company and its clients.

In this way, web-based reporting acts as an important pest-monitoring system, and is an important communication device between food companies and their clients, ensuring pest problems and solutions remain transparent and traceable.

“We look after a manufacturer of a food additive in Australia that supplies a multinational US-based company and because they use Adams’ Pestweb, our internet reporting service, their client no longer has to come over to Australia at the same frequency to do an audit on that site because they can access the web-based report from the US,” Taylor said.

According to Country Life Bakery, Pestweb is effective in keeping the company up-to-date with pest problems and identifying pest trends on-site, enabling them to implement appropriate solutions and preventive measures in consultation with Adams Pest Control.

Despite the obvious merits of non-toxic pest control solutions, HACCP regards exclusion and the use of baits on the perimeter of sites as the best method.

“The food industry needs to focus on keeping pests off the premises in the first place and use bait traps on the perimeter to prevent them coming back in,” Stone said.

Whatever method is employed, it is imperative that foodstuffs are kept clean and safe at every stage of the supply chain.

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