According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), global foodborne illnesses cost more than US$15.6 billion each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 76 million illnesses related to food contamination have been reported worldwide from 1999 to 2010, including 325,000 hospitalisation cases and 5,000 deaths. CDC further added that Salmonella, Listeria and Norovirus are among top 5 microbes and pathogens that caused major foodborne diseases around the world. In Malaysia, food poisoning cases have increased 6% in 2013 compared to the previous year, making it one of the top communicable diseases with highest incidence and mortality rate.
Furthermore, based on the environmental assessment done by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a food processing facility, they found that hygiene and sanitation are one of the key factors that contributed to Salmonella contamination. Food preparation areas and non-food contact surfaces that were not effectively cleaned or sanitised have high potential to trap and harbour water, organic materials, harmful germs and pathogens.
Pest infestations have also been identified to cause food contamination because pest such as cockroaches, flies and rats are carriers of harmful bacteria and viruses. Additionally, the food plant environment is extremely attractive as it provides ideal conditions and basic necessities such as food, water, shelter and protection for these pests against natural predators.
Generally, food processing companies take many precautions during production and raw materials storage to ensure that clean and safe products are being manufactured without disruptions. In order to minimise the risk of food contamination, IPM must be deployed as part of the prerequisite programme against any potential pest infestation. The process usually begins with identification of potential pest that may infiltrate the facility to further understand pest’s behaviour, elimination of breeding and harbourage areas both inside and outside the premises, exclusion from potential entry points and treatment.
However, even when all these components are put into action, poor sanitation may still lead to attraction and breeding of pests in the facility. Once they are inside, they will be drawn towards ingredients or finished goods, eventually contaminating these materials and the facility. That is why sanitation practices are essential to prevent the attraction, breeding or infestation of pests.
“As part of the IPM routine, an effective sanitation programme is key to the overall success of any food processing operation. However, it is also crucial that sanitation activities are designed with professionalism that are tailored to your needs to remain economically feasible while complying to regulatory and audit requirements”, said Ms. Carol Lam, the Managing Director of Rentokil Initial Malaysia.