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Based on a report by the International Food Policy Research Institute, it has been estimated that 35% of crop production are lost annually due to pest infestations in Asia. Huge quantities of food losses every year are contributed by pest rodents and considered as one of the most damaging due to global annual losses of an estimated 77 million tonnes. In Asia, where 673 million tonnes or 91% of world rice production occurs (FAO 2013), annual food losses due to rodents would be enough to feed 200 million people.
The amount is enough to suggest the importance of placing a successful integrated pest management (IPM) strategy in the entire supply chain to prevent further raw material losses. Pest infestations also bring a myriad of concerns from food contaminations to regulatory actions and major impact includes failure in prerequisite programmes and external auditing bodies. These will become a potential profit loss, halting the growth of the company in the long run.
There are a number of existing pests in the ecosystem, which have come to rely on humans to provide their sustenance. From farm to table, pests can compromise food safety by transmitting pathogens, allergens and irritants hence an effective pest management strategy is important in sustaining the food safety and assurance process. In order for a pest management programme to be successful in the food supply chain, it is vital to address the root cause of pest problems and preventive measures rather than focusing on pest eradication.
For food products to be constantly safe especially from contamination, proactive training on pest awareness to employees plays a crucial part in building the foundation of a successful food safety and quality assurance programme. Employees should be part of the control and elimination of potential food and water sources for pest as well as shelter within interior and exterior areas of the business premises before infestations occur. According to Malaysia compendium of environment statistics, food poisoning incidence rate nationwide is 749 per 100,000 populations in 2012 and as of March 2014; Malaysia Statistics Department reported the country’s population has reached the 30 million numbers. Resultant of the statistics it is highly encouraged to implement better food safety management systems and it should always starts from farm to table.
Providing continuous pest training to educate employees on pest awareness and exclusion practices can better support the pest management process especially in food processing facilities. Basic pest knowledge allows employees proactively offer input and report pest sightings to anticipate pest problems before they occur. Preventive measures can address vulnerabilities before pest infestation happens.
Pest education is also essential in IPM because correct pest identification is a critical step in the control process and for the right pest solutions to be used. Besides that, identifying signs of infestation also helps in monitoring pest activities. For instance, the common indicators of rat activities are through their gnaw marks and droppings. Correct identification of its droppings will assist in accurate removal process because rats of different species will have different control methods.
Most food processing company embrace the top-down approach to ensure that personal hygiene policies and procedures are implemented by all employees; this in fact an excellent approach to reduce the likelihood of product contamination from pest. Further strengthening of this approach is continuous pest training and monitoring. Educating employees on pest awareness and personal hygiene will enhance sanitation practices for prerequisite programmes in compliance with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP).
Employees that understand the impact of pest infestation to the business helps minimise potential losses and help save food products from the risk of contamination. Clearly to avert further losses from pest infestations, it will need dedication and continuous monitoring and improvement, but the returns are high when companies are able to keep their most valuable asset, their brand reputation from being tarnished.
Managing Director of Rentokil Initial (M) Sdn Bhd, Carol Lam said, “Pest infiltration at any point of the supply chain can lead to significant and devastating losses, such as product recall and worst-case scenario, business closure. Implementation of an effective IPM programme that focuses on prevention and diligence in establishing exclusion strategies and education can help to save your products, and most importantly — your business.”
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