Legislation concerning pest control for food safety is generally found in several distinct areas, including various aspects of food safety itself, but also relates to environment and pesticides, health and safety, wildlife, agriculture and cruelty to animals.
Legislation generally specifies broad requirements for pest control in the safe production of food. However, specific standards and accepted practices for compliance vary by geography.
We provide an overview of pest control requirements for food processing in more detail below.
General Food Law in the EU
The EU General Food Law puts a requirement for traceability and responsibility for withdrawal and recall of contaminated food on food operators (Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, Articles 18 and 19). This includes importers, producers, processors, manufacturers and distributors:
The traceability of any substance intended to be, or expected to be, incorporated into a food product must be established at all stages of production, processing and distribution.
Food processing operators must have systems and procedures that allow for this information to be made available to the competent authorities on demand.
Article 50 establishes a rapid alert system across member states for when there is a risk to human health or the environment in relation to food or food contact material.
Food hygiene law
According to the Regulation (EC) No 852/2004, food operators are required to prevent animals and pests from causing contamination by taking appropriate and adequate measures.
Operators are required to conform to the appropriate EU and national legislations on the control of hazards to prevent contamination from air, soil, water and biocides. They also have to take adequate measures to store and handle hazardous substances and waste in a way that prevents contamination.
Food businesses must maintain and retain records relating to the measures used to control food safety hazards in an appropriate manner and for an appropriate period depending on the nature and size of the business.
The law also specifies that food business operators producing or harvesting plant products must keep records on any occurrence of pests or diseases that may affect the safety of food products of plant origin.
The layout, design, construction, siting and size of food premises must permit good food hygiene practices, including the protection against contamination and, in particular, pest control. Food premises should be kept clean and maintained in good repair and condition.
Food waste is a good source of food for a range of different pests and where waste is stored can provide pests with harbourage.
The legislation specifies that food waste, non edible by-products and other refuse must be:
- Removed from rooms where food is present as quickly as possible to avoid their accumulation
- Placed in closable containers, or other types that can be shown to be appropriate and accepted by the relevant authority. The containers must be of an appropriate construction, kept in sound condition, be easy to clean and, where necessary, to disinfect
- Adequate provision must be made for storage and disposal of food waste and associated refuse. The refuse storage areas must be designed and managed so that they can be kept clean and, where necessary, free of animals and pests.
Food handling and storage
Raw materials and ingredients must be kept in appropriate conditions that protect from contamination. In all stages of production, processing and distribution, food must be protected against any type of contamination and adequate procedures are to be in place.
Food safety training
Food business operators are to ensure:
- Staff are supervised and trained in food hygiene appropriate for their work
- Staff responsible for applying HACCP principles have received adequate training to do so
US food safety legislation
In the US, the FDA is responsible for federal legislation and issuing guidance for state and local government agencies.
The Code of Federal Regulations for Food and Drugs specifies the measures to be taken by food manufacturers. The areas directly relevant to pest control are included in the parts relating to buildings and facilities.
Pest control for food processors in the US
- Plant and grounds are to be kept in a condition that protects against food contamination, including removing litter, waste and weeds that can attract or harbour pests
- Areas that can cause food-borne contamination or pest breeding areas are drained
- Plant and facilities are designed and constructed to enable sanitary operations for food manufacturing and maintenance
- There is adequate screening or other protection against pests
- Pesticides and other chemicals such as cleaning agents are identified, and stored in a manner that protects against contamination of food, food contact surfaces and packaging materials. It also specifies that all legislation issued by other federal, state and local government agencies regarding these chemicals is followed
- No pests are allowed in any area of the food plant. The business must take effective measures to exclude pests from food processing areas and protect food against contamination
- Pesticides are permitted to be used only in a way that prevents contamination of food, food contact surfaces and packaging materials
- Rubbish and any offal must be disposed of in a way that minimizes the potential for it to attract pests and give harbourage or breeding areas
The GFSI Global Markets Programme provides food manufacturing businesses with a four-step pathway to achieve certification, which is an important route to reaching legal compliance:
- Self-assessment: depending on the outcome the business could pass to step 2, 3 or 4 below
- Basic level assessment (matches 35% of key elements)
- Intermediate level assessment (matches 65% of key elements)
- Certification against a GFSI-recognised scheme
GFSI provides a framework for good practice in food manufacturing in its guidance on the development and delivery of training and the competencies required to achieve the Global Markets Programme Basic and Intermediate Levels for Food Manufacturing. The GFSI programme itself is based upon the Codex Alimentarius General Principles of Food Hygiene Code of Practice.
GFSI and pest control
Food businesses need to ensure the correct systems are in place to prevent or minimise risk of pest infestation from rodents, insects and birds. This includes:
- An effective pest control programme managed by someone with appropriate competence
- Keeping external areas free of waste, debris and food sources
- Keeping a completely clear perimeter area around buildings of about 0.5m
- Keeping all doors and windows closed and making sure there are no gaps that allow pest access
- Ensuring there is a proper cleaning and waste disposal regime
- Monitoring of target pest species with appropriate equipment such as bait stations, electronic fly killers, traps, etc. and positioned appropriately to reduce risk of contamination by pests of raw materials, ingredients, finished products, surfaces or during monitoring
- Making and maintaining a map of all pest control stations
- Pest control activities in food premises should be done by a licensed pest control specialist or by staff who have been trained and properly licensed
- All monitoring activities should be planned, carried out and recorded
Food businesses should have a suitable programme for the collection and disposal of waste to prevent accumulation of materials that can be either a refuge or a source of food for pests.
There should be procedures for waste management that include specifying the responsible person and the methods used to collect, handle and remove waste materials.
Any chemicals that are used throughout the food chain, from farm to consumer that could be present in food intentionally or accidentally, can have a cost implication for food processors.
The types of pesticides that can be used in the food chain and for general pest control on premises are evaluated and regulated by a range of government agencies.
In the EU, pest control products are regulated by the EU Biocidal Products Regulation (Regulation (EU) 528/2012), which covers a very diverse group of products that protect people and animals from harmful microorganisms and pests. It includes disinfectants, pest control products, and preservatives.
In the UK, pesticide regulation comes under the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The UK also has The Control of Pesticides Regulations (COPR) an older UK national scheme which covers various pest control products that contain active substances, which are not yet regulated under BPR.
In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for the continual monitoring and assessment of biocide chemicals to determine if they are safe to use. The US Department of Agriculture analyses pesticide residues in fruit, vegetables, grains, meat and dairy products, while the FDA collects data on residues in processed/ cooked food. This applies both to food products produced in the country and to imports.
The Food Quality Protection Act (1996) requires the EPA to determine tolerances and assess risk from exposure to pesticides from multiple sources — food, water, residential and other non-occupational sources.