HACCP International is the firm responsible for developing the international standard ‘Pest Management Services for Food Businesses’. Here, HACCP International director Clive Withinshaw discusses the unique demands of the food industry with the Australian publication Professional Pest Manager.
Most large food businesses operate in accordance with a recognised food safety management program – these are often referred to as ‘HACCP programs’, which is an acronym taken from ‘Hazard Analysis – Critical Control Point’, the process of risk management designed to manage food safety. In managing food safety, businesses processing and handling food products have a range of issues to consider, one of which is pest management.
How important is pest control in a HACCP program?
Pest management is one of the key issues for the food industry. Indeed, all HACCP programs will have a stand-alone section devoted to pest management as a prerequisite component. Food businesses have to ensure this section is operated correctly and stands up to audit in order for them to be certified as a food safe provider – no certificate means no customers for them.
As a matter of interest, the pest management section is where the highest number of specific non-conformances appear. This frustrates food plant operators – pest control is one of the few parts of their business that they don’t undertake themselves, but for which they are totally responsible to their auditors.
Managing pests in food plants is not as easy as it is in other industrial sites. Food businesses need assurance that their contractor can not only do the job, but can also meet the stringent requirements of the food business – and their auditors.
Is this why HACCP International developed the pest management standard?
Precisely why. There are a number of guidelines for pest management in the food industry both here and overseas, but protocols and guidelines are not standards and just don’t cut it. Food businesses like to be sure there is a measurable standard to support claims of ability. This is why HACCP International developed the Pest Management Standard, the only one in the world developed to ISO standards for this particular process. That’s why it is being used by food businesses all over the world to benchmark the performance of pest management contractors in the food industry – and why many pest managers are seeking to get certification to the Pest Management Standard.
For pest managers wanting third-party certification, it is important to check carefully what is being offered and the standard against which certification is being offered. Get a copy of the written standard beforehand. We have noticed a few certifications that aren’t appropriate, such as those claiming to be ‘GMP HACCP’ or ‘HACCP compliant’. We warn against certificates that do not reference a specific standard. When enquiring, ask about the standard and check it. By the way, the HACCP International standard itself can be downloaded at no charge from our website.
In your view, where do pest managers most commonly let down the food industry and what do they generally get right?
Generally, we find that the pest managers do a good job in controlling pests, which really is the most important part. Compared to other international markets, knowledge is generally high in Australia and appropriate, food safe, products are used. We see little substitution or unsafe product usage, which is a problem elsewhere.
However, it tends to be in reporting and systems where pest managers fall short. If you’re not in the food industry, it is difficult to imagine the degree of diligence and record keeping that food safety auditors require of the food businesses – and the pest manager’s systems have to meet that standard too. It is in this area that we find pest managers have the most trouble, and is a common reason for losing or failing to win a contract.
Why HACCP International’s certification?
Some pest managers may ask, “Why can’t I just follow HACCP processes in my pest management business?” Or “Why do I need certification and why should I consider HACCP International’s certification?”
Certification is a third-party assurance of compliance and HACCP International certifies to a specific standard. Best practice food businesses are highly regulated and audited. For many years now, they have lived by measurables and standards, not guidelines or vague confirmations of compliance to protocols. With food businesses demanding an auditable, quality pest service to protect their business, certification to the HACCP Pest Management Standard provides food businesses with the confidence their pest management contractors are following best practice and documenting accordingly.
Any other tips?
After addressing systems and reporting, following up on outstanding actions required by the food business client is often a problem. We see pest managers reporting issues that require customer attention but then customers fail to take the necessary action.
Don’t be afraid to continually remind your customers as to what they need to do – and document it. Make sure their auditor can see the record of your continued reminders. If they haven’t actioned your recommendations and the auditor can’t see that, you still might end up taking the blame. It’s not fair but that’s contracting!