Don’t let pest management eat away at you

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 told Food magazine.

"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 haveproblems 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."

A multi-faceted approach
Paul Moreira, service manager for Victoria at Adams Pest Control, says the two fundamental pillars of pest management are hygiene and maintenance.

But this isn't as straight forward as it may sound, he insists.

"In the food industry there's a requirement to integrate a pest management approach which is multi-faceted. So rather than just focusing on applying a pesticide, it's about identifying proofing issues, harbourage issues, alternative food sources. All of those things link into the site's pest management program," he said.

Safety of the end product, obviously, is a high priority in pest control in the food industry. Manufacturers need to be very careful about where and how they fight off pests, and there are a number of options available to them, Moreira says.

While toxic bates are available, which are consumed by rodents and kill them five to 10 days later, Moreira believes that in the coming years the industry will move award from these chemicals.

"Another approach is to have a monitoring block, which allows you to assess activity. So the pest controller goes around and has a look at if the block has been consumed or not,and if it has you obviously have a problem and you have to go down the path of getting rid of the infestation," he says.

This approach means there's no risk of contaminating the product being manufactured, but on the other hand it's purely an information gathering exercise – it doesn't treat the problem at all.

It's for this reason that the American Institute of Baking (AIB), which has an internationally recognised standard, is moving away from the use of non-toxic chemical blocks internally, instead recommending the use of mechanical traps.

"It's all about minimising pests within the site by hitting them outside, and then inside your treatment becomes a non-toxic approach. According to the AIB's standard you have to use a mechanical trap. You can't use a monitoring block … because all that does is feed the rodent. You haven't addressed the issue of having the rodent there."

While Adams Pest Control's latest product, Baitsafe, can be used with toxic baits, it's like nothing else on the market as it allows food manufacturers to use pesticides in cavities in a safe, controllable way, Moreira says.

"What Baitsafe allows us to do is put a device in that cavity and then apply the pesticide in a very secure way. It looks like a fire alarm. It's flush against the ceiling, but it doesn't have to be in the ceiling. It can be in the splashback of the kitchen, it can be in the kickplate of a bench or in a wall, but it sits flush against it.

"We have a key, we place it in the device, open it and the pesticide is on the other side, or we can even apply a monitoring block or a sticky board to allow us to gauge the activity levels of, say, fruit flies or cockroaches, then we close the device.

"So as far as anyone on this side of the wall, where people work, are concerned, all they see is a tiny little circular flat planel and they can't access the pesticide that's on the other side," Moreira says.

Money well spent
Food manufacturers need to be proactive with their pest management strategy. It goes without saying that it's much easier – and more cost effective – to prevent an infestation from occurring than it is to have one treated.

So while regular inspections and a detailed pest management strategy might seem like an unneccesary expense, it's money well spent, says Simon Lean, Australian technical manager at Rentokil.

"Pest control isn't free but they [food manufacturers] do get good value for money. It's always something you have to have on your books and something manufacturers often want to get done for as cheap as possible, but generally, if people are chasing cheap pest control they get a cheap job, and if they get a cheap job they end up with pest problems.

"That's the last thing they need because all these food manufacturing companies are very particular about brand protection. The last thing they want is for someone to see a rat in a loaf of bread or something like that," Lean told Food magazine.

"A PR disaster can really hit these companies. But it's not just PR. If they've got a contaminated line in their manufacturing, just imagine if they have to close that line down because it's either riddled with pests or simply broken. The cost of that line being down could be thousands of dollars, sometimes hundreds of thousands a week, in lost production. Whether that be because of pests or an engineering concern, it gets very serious and it really does hit their bottom line."

Regular inspections are critical for any food brand, especially those in older facilities that may not be able to keep pests out as effectively as new buildings can.

Having said that, regular – and thorough – hygiene and maintenance schedules go a long way in pest-proofing your business, and therefore minimise the likelihood and cost of treating infestations, replacing equipment or – heaven forbid – dealing with product recalls.

"If you keep things clean and in good working order, it's going to be easier to inspect for any pest problems, and you're not going to have as many pest problems because it's clean and you don't have any food for the pests or harbourage where they can hide and breed," Lean says.

"That's why inspections are so critical in food manufacturing."


Regions battle for new meatworks

Two north-west regions are battling it out to be home for a proposed new meatworks site.

Producers across the country agree that a new meatworks facility would help the industry move away from live exports – an industry which has struggled since the infamous ban to Indonesia in 2011 – and towards chilled and boxed beef.

However, representatives from Cloncurry and Hughenden are now at loggerheads over which town would make the best location for a new facility, the North West Star reports.

Cloncurry mayor, Andrew Daniels, said he doesn't care where a meatworks is built, as long as it is built somewhere. He did add, however, that Cloncurry has sufficient power supply to run a meatworks and is strategically placed at three intersecting highways, making transport of chilled beef a supported industry. But ultimately,

Flinders Shire mayor, Gregory Jones, vouched for Hughenden by arguing the region would be more central to the supply of cattle, especially considering the Australian Agriculture Company (AACo) is constructing an abattoir in Darwin to account for the cattle currently over-supplying the Northern Territory market.

Jones said Cloncurry would struggle to provide labour for the meatworks as a lot of its resources are dedicated to mining, but insisted his council would be more able to supply the low-cost housing needed to set up a meatworks that would bring employment to the town.

There's also talk of a new $30m abattoir on King Island, but the viability of the facility would be dependent on secure meat prices, a well-promoted brand and a supply commitment from producers.

According to The Mercury, a government-funded $48,000 study has found that any new meatworks would need to be a full export facility, and the island's beef producers would need to provide it rather than the Tasmanian mainland with their beef in order for it to work.

Since the closure of the JBS abattoir last year, farmers have been paying $112 per head to send cattle off the island, but this cost has been offset by competition between JOB in Longford and another processor, Greenhams.


Government talks provide hope for fruit growers

Goulburn Valley orchardist Peter Hall, along with fellow fruit growers and officials from the Manufacturing Workers Union discussed the regions fruit crisis with parliamentarians in Canberra yesterday.

Following the decision to cut the supply of fruit significantly from the region earlier this year due to increased imports, SPC Ardmona has called for the implementation of emergency safeguard measures from the Federal Government to protect growers in the future as reported by the Weekly Times Now.

According to Hall, figures from the growers’ association showed that SPCA’s discontinuation of contracts with 60 growers would equate to around 1800 jobs lost. Despite this, Hall believes that the government is making progress on the issue.

"I get the sense there is some movement on it, but from a fruit growers point of view it's been very hard to get government's ear when it comes to these things in the past,'' Mr Hall said.

"We were basically told the Coalition was supportive of the measures if they fitted the WTO protocols, and the government is listening to us at the very least.

"We're still in limbo, but this is an unfolding crisis and the more discussion this opens up, from a farming perspective, the better.''

Hall believes that the downfall of major food processors Rosella and Heinz should serve as a warning to industry.

 "We want to pay good wages to workers, we don't want fruit covered in chemicals, but we need to be given this support to go on doing it. Otherwise there won't be a fruit industry here that's competitive.''

"This is an Australian industry which – despite all the challenges – has been profitable for 100 years.''


Product development sprayer gives local companies access to new markets

New Zealand’s Waikato Innovation Park is using a product development spray dryer known as FoodWaikato to dry avocado pulp into a high value powder for use in food products.

FoodWaikato is the only open access product development spray dryer in NZ and is part of the New Zealand Food Innovation Network which supports growth and development in the New Zealand food and beverage industry.

The dryer is currently helping company’s including Bay of Plenty and Avocado Oil New Zealand to develop the products for commercial use including rehydrated guacamole, smoothies and baby food.

Plant manager Dave Shute said that the dryer had previously been used for drying milk products and the switch to drying fruit, such as avocado presented a few challenges, including cleaning the plant to ensure the highest possible safety standards.

“Our plant has been up and running for one year now and we’ve primarily been drying milk products.  So, drying avocados – in fact fruit of any kind – was new territory for us,” said Shute.

“We did our first trial run in January, which introduced us to the challenges of dealing with a fruit that is fibrous, highly viscous, and oxidises rapidly if exposed to air.” 

Shulte said that Waikato Innovation Park is currently in discussions with around ten different companies who wish to do trials with several other fruit and vegetable products.

“We want to get the word out to food innovators within New Zealand and throughout Australasia that we’re here to help.  If you have a great idea for a new dairy, fruit or vegetable product that requires drying, come talk to us,” he said.

Brian Richardson, Executive Director of Avocado Oil New Zealand said that the creation of Avopure, its new avocado powder would not have been possible without with access to FoodWaikato’s product development sprayer.

“The avocado powder we have developed has a unique point of difference on the international stage compared to our competitors. It will be the first premium avocado powder available which contains no added fillers or carriers and contains higher levels of potassium, fibre and energy,” said Richardson.

Richardson said that the development of the powder has now given them access to an entirely new export market.

Avopure will be sold initially in the US, Japan, China and Australia. 


Inghams workers sacked – Mandatory CCTV demanded in animal processing plants

Inghams workers accused of torturing turkeys in the company’s processing plant in Sydney’s South West were sacked on Friday in response to anonymous footage taken of the incident according to  

The footage was supplied to Animal Liberation showing employees kicking and punching turkeys as they were being prepared for slaughter.

The names of the workers have been supplied to police by Inghams who have stated that they do not “tolerate the mistreatment of livestock” and have backed this statement by installing cameras in all bird handling areas over the weekend.

The incident begs the question as to whether other poultry and meat processing plants will be forced to install CCTV monitoring cameras, an initiative that Animal Liberation and the RSPCA called for last week in response to the footage.

The timing coincides with the end of Meat Free Week, a campaign designed to discourage consumers to eat meat and shed light on the realities of factory farming.

Inghams Enterprises was sold to a global private equity firm last month and have claimed that the incident has not affected the future of the company.

Fonterra invests $100m in UHT milk plant

Multi-national dairy company, Fonterra, will invest more than $100m in a new UHT milk processing plant at its Waitoa site in New Zealand's Waikato region.

Fonterra chief executive, Theo Spierings, said the new plant will allow the company to meet Asia's growing demand for UHT products.

"The new plant will enable us to increase our UHT production by 100 percent over the next few years. The plant will include five new UHT lines that will produce a range of products including UHT white milk and UHT cream for the foodservice sector," he said.

The new plant will see the creation of 50 new jobs and will provide new opportunities for Fonterra farmers in the North Island.

"Milk supply in New Zealand is seasonal because it follows the grass growth curve. However UHT production requires year-round milk supply so we will be talking to our farmers about the opportunity for more of them to take up winter milk contracts. This will enable them to take advantage of the milk price premium that these contracts include," Spierings said.

"A recent survey of our farmers indicated that a good proportion of them in the Upper North Island would be keen to take up winter milk contracts."


Food contamination – a weighty issue

Looking out for certain features of weighing equipment can help food manufacturers maximise their return on investment, and minimise the risk of contamination. Isaac Leung writes.

Food contamination can occur via any number of vectors, so constant vigilance is required during every step of the food supply chain.

One oft-overlooked source of food contamination is weighing equipment, a fundamental part of portioning in food processing.

Current international standards which govern hygiene in relation to weighing equipment in the food industry include the European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group (EHEDG) guidelines, BRC Global Food Standard, SQF program, ISO 22000, and the NSF 3-A/ANSI 14159-1 standard.

Locally, the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code relating to Food Premises and Equipment stipulates that equipment needs to be designed, constructed, located and installed to ensure there is no likelihood they will cause food contamination, and can be easily and effectively cleaned.

In the case of food contact surfaces, for example, where a scale has foodstuff set on it during the portioning process, the rules are even stricter: in addition to the above, they need to be able to be sanitised, and be unable to absorb grease, food particles and water, and made of material which will not contaminate food.

Similar requirements can be found in the policies of food retailers. For example, Woolworths’ Quality Assurance Standard pertaining to Manufactured Foods require well-documented procedures for the microbiological and chemical cleaning of processing and handling equipment. These cleaning procedures are backed up by visual inspection, residue testing, and quarterly microbiological swabbing of surfaces and equipment.

Woolworths also requires planned preventative maintenance programs which include clean in place (CIP) operations utilising documented chemicals, hot water and energy like scrubbing or high pressure hosing.

According to Phil Hyland, project manager at Mettler Toledo, the last three to four years have seen a tightening of hygiene controls as a number of high-profile food contamination cases have emerged globally.

Weighing equipment manufacturers have kept an eye on these stringent demands, and designed their equipment to be correspondingly easier to clean, with less food traps and areas which could become sources of cross-contamination.

By virtue of their function, weighing equipment consists of a mix of direct food contact surfaces and non-contact surfaces.

On a scale, non-product contact surfaces can include the terminal, housing, and feet, but these can cause indirect contamination. Depending on the type of food being weighed, the feet of scales can also be in direct food contact.

Contact surfaces are defined as surfaces in direct contact with food residue, or where food residue can drip, drain, diffuse or be drawn. The scale platform is the most obvious direct food contact surface.

These surfaces need to be smooth, non-porous, non-absorbent, impervious; free of cracks, crevices, pitting, flaking, and chipping; corrosion-resistant; durable and maintenance-free; non-toxic, non-contaminant; cleanable and non-reactive.

The standard material for contact surfaces is stainless steel, which is corrosion-resistant and durable. 316 steel is preferred, while 304 stainless steel is also adequate.

To attain the requisite hygiene ratings, the surface needs to be polished to a smoothness of 0.8 micron or better. Rougher surfaces prevent effective cleaning as microorganisms become trapped in the surface, becoming a bacteria trap.

Of course, cleanability can also be dependent on the finishing technology, which can affect the surface topology.

Where other materials are used, plastics should be food grade, and smooth ceramics is also a common material.

According to Hyland, the common approach to use silicon-based potting material to protect sensitive parts of weighing equipment, such as the load cell, is insufficient for food-grade equipment. Certain cleaning products can shorten the life of silicon potting materials. A better approach is to protect the load cell with a welded, IP69 rated seal.

Designed for cleaning
The ability for equipment to handle heavy washdowns is one of the things which differentiates food-grade industrial weighing systems from, say, a kitchen scale. But Hyland says customers who only focus on the washdown capabilities of equipment may be overlooking other important factors.

“They often haven’t looked at the ability to clean the equipment properly, such as ensuring there are no food traps,” Hyland explained. “The converse applies: you could have a machine which is open and able to be washed down but the equipment eventually suffers from the cleaning.”

“We’re looking for something that can be cleaned to a satisfactory standard and yet be able to withstand that process.”

Equipment which is poorly designed may require more severe and prolonged cleaning. Aggressive chemicals and longer clean/decontamination cycles increase maintenance cost and downtime, and in the long run, can reduce the life of the product.

To avoid food traps, equipment should not have sharp corners and crevices, and mated surfaces should be continuous and substantially flush. Construction should allow easy disassemble for cleaning and inspection.

Internal angles should be rounded to standards-specified radii. Most standards specify the avoidance of sharp corners, less than 90 degrees.

Particular features which allow for easy cleaning include full stainless steel construction, smooth surfaces, continuously welded and completely closed columns with no disturbing cables, and ingress protection of IP68 or IP69K.

“IP69K sealing gives our food industry equipment very good protection against hot, high-pressure hosing,” Hyland said. “When you are in a meat room or a food processing area, the temperature often changes. If a freezer comes on, for example, you can have a large change in air temperature.”

To combat condensation within equipment due to temperature changes, the machines should be well-sealed, and properly vented.

“Food equipment in high-condensation areas will have Gore-Tex vents, which allow a balance of air pressure, so it doesn’t try to suck in moist air, but also does not allow moisture in through the vent,” Hyland explained.

Holistic approach
While the design of equipment is an important aspect of food safety, food safety auditors say many manufacturers often spend millions of dollars on equipment, only to find themselves out of step with their core customers’ requirements.

Standards like the Woolworths Quality Assurance Standards and the Coles Housebrand Supplier Program specify a comprehensive set of requirements, which relate to factors beyond equipment design like equipment placement, calibration, cleaning, interfaces with other equipment, and data retrieval and analysis.

By having a good understanding of all aspects of these requirements, in addition to equipment design, food manufacturers can minimise the risk of contamination, and ensure they are compliant with relevant standards.


The importance of traceability in your supply chain

Traceability is now taking centre stage as a vital component of an organisation’s supply chain process.

In September 2012, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) provided updated information for Australian food businesses regarding their requirements for food product traceability and product recall obligations in the supply chain process. It is important that all food and beverage suppliers understand their obligations in these two critical areas.

According to FSANZ, traceability in the Australian food sector should enable businesses to identify the source of all inputs such as raw materials, additives, other ingredients and packaging on the basis of one step forward and one step back at any point in the supply chain.

Traceability enables food businesses to target the product(s) involved in a food safety problem, thereby minimising disruption to trade and reducing potential public health risks.

FSANZ stated that an effective product traceability system will not only help isolate and prevent contaminated products reaching consumers in the event of a product recall, it will also help Australian food businesses protect their brands. FSANZ also requires food businesses to be able to provide information about the food it has on its premises and where it came from. This important information must be produced on request from an authorised officer of FSANZ.

As traceability professionals, GS1 Australia welcomed the FSANZ announcement and its recognition about the importance of traceability, particularly in the event of a product recall.

Marcel Sieira, GS1 Australia’s general manager, business development, said an organisation’s requirement to track and trace a raw material, ingredient or packaging material through all stages of its production, processing and distribution to the end consumer as a fully packaged item is an often undervalued and unrecognised ability within an organisation.

“The increasing demands for food product safety for consumers, major supermarkets and regulatory authorities can only help Australian food businesses focus on the need for an improved ability to track and trace products up and down their supply chains,” he said.  

Traceability is an important part of an organisation’s product recall management plan, said Steve Hather, managing director of the RQA Product Risk Institute.

“Where we see companies struggle with recalls is often in those first critical stages of investigating incidents and making the decision to recall,” he said.

“Not having effective traceability processes and people trained in using them can often lead to delays in actioning a product recall. This is one of the leading causes of incidents escalating into a crisis.

”Roughly one-third of the total cost of a recall is in business interruption. Companies should have effective business continuity programs in place to minimise disruption and get back into business as soon as possible after a recall or other disruptive events.

“Being out of the market for an extended period of time can lead to loss of shelf space for a period of time, or worse – loss of key customers. The ability for a company to successfully track and trace their products through their supply chain and retrieve them from the marketplace is a key component in the decision by the relevant regulatory authorities to finally close out an organisation’s product recall.”

This is why GS1 Australia includes traceability as a key component of the “Effective Product Recall Management Workshops” held jointly with RQA Product Risk Institute.

As well as examining risk management, incident identification, escalation, the product recall management plan and business communications, the workshops provide training on GS1 Recallnet, which eases traceability and the process of delivering information to trading partners and regulatory authorities.

GS1 Recallnet is GS1 Australia’s secure web-based portal for the management of recall and withdrawal notifications. Based on global GS1 standards and best practices, GS1 Recallnet simplifies and automates the exchange of information between suppliers, distributors and retailers as well as government agencies such as FSANZ and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). 

By increasing the speed and accuracy of recall and withdrawal notifications, GS1 Recallnet significantly decreases business and consumer risk, reduces costs, protects brands and ultimately, helps improve food safety in Australia.

The Effective Recall Management Workshops (GS1/RQA workshops) for 2013 will take place as follows:

• Wednesday 6th March 2013 in Melbourne
• Thursday 7th March 2013 in Sydney


Dairy farmers’ new joint venture to churn out organic butter

Organic Dairy Farmers of Australia has teamed up with the home delivery food franchise, Aussie Farmers Direct, in a joint venture which will see the production of certified organic butter from a new manufacturing facility.

The $1.2m venture will include raw material handling, equipment and butter making machinery and will see the creation of a new butter processing facility, as part of an upgrade to the Aussie Farmers Dairy in Victoria's Camperdown.

Two different types of butter will be churned out: Aussie Farmers will convert its cream into Aussie Farmers branded butter packs, and a certified organic butter will also be produced using organic milk supplied by the 22 dairy farmers that make up the Organic Dairy Farmers of Australia. The latter will be sold under the Organic Dairy Farmers of Australia label and also under its second brand, True Organic.

Butter production is expected to kick off by the end of June 2013, if not before, and in its full first year should deliver between one- and two-million packs of butter.

Peter Skene, CEO, Aussie Farmers Dairy, said "We are incredibly proud to be partnering with Organic Dairy Farmers of Australia – they’re a very special group of organic dairy farmers and we appreciate the quality of supply and the credibility and expertise they bring to this joint venture.

"We believe our joint entry into the Australian butter market will not only benefit more local Aussie dairy farmers by providing a greater choice of buyers and volume of demand for their milk and cream, but will also help to support and strengthen the creation of additional jobs for the local community and give consumers the choice of a 100 percent Australian owned and produced butter range."

This is Organic Dairy Farmers of Australia's second direct investment in manufacturing in the past six months, following its joint venture with high-end French cheese maker, L’Artisan Cheese.

The joint venture will be music to the ears of dairy farmers across the country, who have struggled with cost cutting by the supermarket duopoly.

And it's not just Australian producers who are unhappy. Earlier this week angry dairy farmers in Brussels sprayed riot police and parliament structures with a fire hose full of milk, protesting agains unfair pricing systems. Read more here


Heinz suffers profit drop after relocation

Heinz Watties has reported a five per cent drop in net profit for the year to April 29, with significant costs centred around the relocation of sauce and beetroot processing back to New Zealand.

Watties announced in mid-2011 that the processing of some sauces and beetroot would move from Australia to Hastings and Hawke’s Bay.  The Girgarre Heinz tomato processing facility’s closure at the beginning of the year was reported in Food magazine and elsewhere.

Heinz Watties has spent $7.5 million plus upgrading its beetroot facilities since mid-last year, reports Fairfax’s Business Day, eating into profit results.

Watties was acquired by global tinned food giant Heinz two decades ago. It exports 60 per cent of what it manufactures.