Catch the Rodent Monitoring Wave - Quality Assurance & Food Safety

2021-12-30 06:31:23 By : Ms. Yiman Cheng

Rodent monitoring can be a powerful pest control tool if deployed correctly, writes Chelle Hartzer, consulting entomologist at 360 Pest and Food Safety Consultant.

Technology has provided us with many innovations: cell phones that do more than computers, cars that almost drive themselves, manufacturing equipment that processes, sorts and packages. But when was the last time you thought about technology and your pest management program?

There have been a handful of changes to pest management in the last few decades. Documentation and pest trend reports have allowed for better, data-based decisions. Monitoring devices have gone from standard placement intervals to placement based on risk. Within the last few years, digital pest control (also referred to as digital monitoring, remote monitoring and electronic monitoring) has appeared on the market. Digital pest control incorporates connected monitoring devices that provide alerts when pests are present. While not widespread (particularly in the United States), it is being increasingly installed, particularly for rodent monitoring. If you have thought about incorporating these devices into your pest management program there are a few things to consider.

Depending on your site, you may want to switch entirely to electronic devices, or you may want a bit of a hybrid program: some connected devices and some traditional options. A program of interior and exterior connected rodent control devices will give you a complete picture of what’s happening around the site. Alternatively, there may be one or two high-risk areas. You may want the enhanced protection digital pest control provides in those spots, while the rest of the site is lower risk. When talking with your pest control provider about installing these systems, think about the risks, thresholds, history of the site and the cost of the devices.

Once a rodent encounters a device, an alert is sent out. The system can then email, text or have an app alert to show that a rodent is present. Of course, the people performing the pest management services need to get this alert, but there may be others that want to see that information. The quality assurance team or whoever oversees the pest management program will likely want those alerts and maybe some of the management team. When setting up a digital pest control program, ensure there is clear communication on who is supposed to get those alerts.

The biggest advantage of an electronic monitoring program for rodents is the immediate notification of a rodent issue. No more waiting a week or more between regular service visits to find a problem. However, because of this immediate notification, it indicates something needs to be done soon. No waiting for the next regular service. If you know a rodent was captured in a particular device inside, that area can be quickly inspected for entry points, those points sealed and no more rodents can gain entry. If an outside station suddenly has increased activity, a targeted inspection can find the potential sanitation issues, which will be addressed and rodent populations will fall again. If a digital pest control system is being considered, make sure the expectations are clear on how soon someone needs to respond to an alert and what that response will be. Otherwise, alerts will continue because the underlying problem hasn’t been dealt with. That defeats the purpose of having immediate knowledge of a problem.

Pest management plans can be enhanced by using this technology. Having notifications means the problem can be addressed quickly, while it is still an introduction and it is not given time to become an infestation. It is important to look at where devices are going to go, who gets the alerts and what to do when alerts happen. When rodent problems are solved quickly, it’s less impactful to the operation of a site and the products. While these systems are expensive, they can reduce shut down time, contaminated/damaged products and even recalls. If you have thought about using these systems, talk with your pest management provider and evaluate not just the cost and benefits, but what will be the best solution for your site. If you haven’t thought about it yet, now is a great time to start.

We’re all capable of great things if we keep at it and give ourselves the chance to get better.

I’ve recently taken up tennis. I bought a fancy new racquet that promises better control, and balls with a bit more durability. I even bought a dampener, which is supposed to cut down on reverberation, and watched YouTube training videos on the perfect backhand, forehand and drop shot.

Here’s the thing, though. I stink. Either I swing the racquet (with what I consider to be an appropriate amount of oomph in the moment), and the ball rockets out of the court’s enclosure, or I attempt something more measured and feebly hit it into the net. There’s no in between.

And nothing has helped so far, because the one thing I can’t buy is patience. I haven’t given myself the chance to get used to the size of the racquet or the bounce of the balls. While I (mostly) executed the backhand the way the trainer does in the video the first three times, it’s the next 997 that are important.

That’s what’s frustrating, right? I know what the right thing to do is. I just haven’t done it enough to make it second nature.

It’s kind of like that in food safety. You know how to make safe food. You know how to keep potential allergens away from products and ingredients they shouldn’t come into contact with.

But you can’t just will yourself to pathogen- or allergen-free food. Top-of-the-line equipment does no good if you don’t take the time to train yourself (and your employees) on how to use it and clean it.

Like in this issue’s feature on allergen risk management (“Food Allergies Are a Public Health Issue,” page 26), constantly reviewing processes and raising awareness about the potential for cross-contact are just as valuable as expensive equipment and software.

You can work with the greatest third-party testing lab (“Test Patterns,” page 30), but if you don’t take the time to understand their capabilities and processes, you might not get the results you need.

And while you may think you’re above food fraud (“Criminal Intents,” page 20), without the knowledge of why, when and where it happens, you could open your brand up to a damaging outcome.

I have no delusions of grandeur here. I’m not eyeing some midlife run to qualify for my local YMCA’s tennis tournament.

But we’re all capable of an ace or two, if we keep at it.

Effective leadership is an essential aspect of a successful business, but it can be extremely difficult when one is faced with the unknowns of a recall crisis.

Your workers are one of, if not the, most important asset you have. What and how you communicate with your workers can have a significant impact on their behavior in relation to both food safety and employee wellness — particularly when in crisis. The food industry is accustomed to dealing with outbreaks and recalls, whether in real crises or mock simulations. In many ways, those same practices can be applied to the continuing challenges of COVID-19 — and vice versa.

A recent global health consensus statement ( on guidance for leaders during pandemic recovery described COVID-19 as “the greatest global test of health leadership of our generation.” Included in the statement was a framework of 10 imperatives which, while focused on public health crises, are just as applicable in the recovery from a food safety recall or other crisis. The following is an exploration of the 10 Imperatives, with my perspectives on their application to both food safety and employee wellness:

I see each of the 10 imperatives of the global health statement as important post-crisis practices, but would add an 11th:

Effective leadership is an essential aspect of a successful business, but it can be extremely difficult when one is faced with the unknowns of an evolving recall crisis or “greatest global test of health leadership.” The more you apply best practices and lessons learned from your own experience and that of others, the better you will be able to come out the other side with your business and your workforce intact.

Being a positive influence for someone as they start or develop a career can benefit us all, writes Bruce Ferree, independent consultant/trainer at Eurofins Laboratories.

Well friends, I’ve done it. I’ve reached the ripe age of 65. I’m officially a senior. I might retire. I can get Medicare. I can receive all the discounts seniors qualify for. It’s an exciting and angst-filled time, trying to make all the decisions needed, complete all the applications and deal with all the suppliers. On the other hand, maybe I should start emptying the garage, the attic and other storage places so that the kids won’t have to do it when I can’t.

The reality is that I’ve not been thinking much about how I got to this point in life. I’ve been thinking more about the future and how it depends on those of you who are younger than me. In my last column (, I wrote about returning to better instead of returning to normal. I’m going to expand on that a bit this time.

Many of you have completed your formal education and are mid-career. Some of you are just starting a career. Careers take a long time to put together and most times, the plan we have in our head is not where we end up. Most folks don’t stay in their first job with their first employer. We all feel the need to be promoted, to show our value and be recognized.

Now that I’m late in my career, I’d suggest that we all have had some level of support, mentoring and nurturing in life and work. The best class I had during my education was in high school — critical thinking — and the teacher made it interesting, appropriate to the times and fun. My college advisor truly encouraged me to get the best education possible and to take classes that would benefit a career (even though I didn’t know it). My first employer and manager taught me so much about applying what I learned in school to real life business situations. My wife of more than 36 years has taught me things useful in business as well as at home. Each of these folks mentored and supported me in their own way.

In addition, there were negative influences. Folks that harmed my psyche but still had influence on me. Lessons from those negative influences are still lessons though. I learned what I don’t want to be, how not to interact with people and how not to say things to people. I still keep my list of people I don’t want to be when I grow up.

In July and August, I did my (small) part to help food science students by participating in a fundraiser for Feeding Tomorrow, the Foundation of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). I want deserving students to worry more about their schoolwork than how they will be paying for it. I challenged friends and IFT members to contribute in some small way to helping me with the fundraising part, while I tried to earn their support by challenging myself to run 300 miles in six weeks. We had success. I completed my 300 miles (ouch!) and we collected more than $13,000 for student scholarships.

As we work to get better, now is the time to think about how we influence others and the world in general. There are many different ways we can have a positive, mentoring, supportive and nurturing influence on those who are starting or building their careers. Take a young learner under your wings as a mentor. Have discussions with co-workers about their influence. Find a way to help someone be better mentally and physically.

There are so many ways to create these positive influences. For me, it has been fundraising for what I consider a good cause. I encourage each of you to participate in making the world a better place — each in your own way. As you do get involved, Quality Assurance & Food Safety magazine would like to learn more about what you’re doing. Feel free to contact me ( or editor Jason Brill (, and let us know how you’re helping us all be better.

Producer stewardship of safety and responsiveness to warnings can help the industry get closer to food protection, writes Gabriela Steier, founder at and a professor at Northeastern University.

Finland ranks first in the global food security index, followed by Ireland in second place. The United States is 11th, immediately followed by Canada, and then Germany. The lowest ranking countries are Malawi, Zambia, Sudan and Yemen, according to the Global Food Security Index (GFSI), an annual assessment measuring food security. In that same assessment, North America scores highest in food safety, while China scores best in food availability. Europe leads in affordability.

But nearly all regions are lacking in resilience, which is the ability to prepare for, withstand and recover from a crisis or disruption — a bleak future for food protection. What does this rank mean for U.S. food producers, and what is their role? Easy — it puts them in charge.

Food security rankings form a dynamic quantitative and qualitative benchmarking model for food affordability, availability, quality, safety, natural resources and resilience in 113 countries. This index is calculated based on 59 indicators, many of which are under close control of the food industry, such as prices, yield and quality. The GFSI models position various countries and regions on a spectrum of food security, where the highest-ranking countries’ producers are typically enjoying the most stringent regulations and on-point obligations.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Trade Organization (WTO) complimented the resilience of the sector as a whole because food remained essential. (Of course, it did!) This extends to the entire system, beyond the farm-to-fork notion. A whopping 331 million people need to be fed safely in the U.S., alone. The U.S. food sector, with exports tripling in recent years, contributes about $1.1 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product, providing employment for 22.2 million people according to the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS). Big Food is Big Money and Big Politics in the U.S.

Food has always been and remains essential. Food is crucially important to the well-being, health, safety and productivity of societies. Crises ranging from the Irish Potato Famine to the Great Chinese famines teach us that civilizations need to be fed well in order to thrive. Consequences of food insecurity are rampant in history and full of unlearned lessons for the sector. Thus, warning signs from food security indices, such as the GFSI and the World Health Organization (WHO), should alarm all those whose livelihoods are linked to food, which means producers, retailers and consumers. The WHO estimates that 600 million people globally — almost 1 in 10 — fall ill after eating contaminated food each year, resulting in 420,000 deaths. These deaths wreck an estimated 33 million healthy life years, productive time lost that could have fueled the economy, trade, tourism and sustainable development. The WHO speaks of public health threats resulting from unsafe food, rooted in globalized food trade, population increases, climate change and rapidly changing food systems.

The harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances that can cause foodborne diseases are entirely preventable, most often at the hands of producers and retailers.

The International Association for Food Protection (IAFP), which hosts annual meetings for thousands of members, including top industry, academic and governmental food safety professionals worldwide, addresses exactly this insight: Preventing food-related public health threats is in these professionals’ power. Simply put, food safety professionals are the stewards of food safety. Their mission lies in protecting global food safety and what comes with it — nutrition, resilience, livelihoods and more.

The resulting essentiality of food safety feeds into every aspect of society. Think about sick workers causing deficits in the workforce, or consider the starving and ill populations hindering growth in developing countries.

What is going to cause the most concern globally in the near future are pandemics, climate disasters and fragmented policies that will fail to address the very issues that feed the GFSI and WHO food safety index calculations. These warning signs are fueled by conflicted, corrupted and foolish strategies that leave producers in charge and overlook precautionary tales.

As concomitant protectors of food safety, all those in charge cannot be conflicted by their drive for profit, growth or market competition. What is needed to get to the right path toward improved protection is an understanding of the gravity of the warnings through penetration of education of all food producers.

Without truly global food protection, the entire sector is doomed. The role of those bringing food to the citizens of the world is an essential privilege, and it is up for grabs.