In a perfect world, every food plant would have just one auditor and a single set of audit standards to follow, right? Imagine it—audit preparation would be like studying for the same test over and over. The questions would never change, and your score would get a little better every time. Of course, in the real world, it’s not that simple, for a lot of good reasons. But having multiple auditors with slightly, or sometimes significantly, different requirements can be confusing and can make it harder to maintain the kinds of audit scores your customers would like.
The same challenges apply to pest management professionals who service audited facilities. Given how important it is for our food processing and manufacturing clients to meet stringent pest management protocols at audit, inconsistent requirements from one auditor to the next can complicate things considerably.
That’s why the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) compiled a universal set of pest management standards for food plants in 2007 and updated them recently. Drafted by a group of nationally recognized professionals representing most of the major food safety auditors—including AIB International, ASI, NSF-Cook & Thurber, Silliker, and Yum! Brands—the NPMA’s guidelines meet or exceed the pest management requirements of all the major auditors. In short, the guidelines take the guesswork out of preparing for the pest management component of your next audit, both for you and for your pest management provider.
Four Major Categories
The universal standards cover four major categories of the typical pest management program in a food plant. The first category is personnel, which covers background checks, uniform and vehicle requirements, minimum training standards, and so forth. This category has implications not only for food safety but also food security. In this day and age, food security concerns are on the front burner for auditors.
Next are the pest management protocols themselves, which naturally form the core of the standards. The final two categories are communications and recordkeeping, which outline the pest management documentation required for audit. This written information plays a fundamental role at audit time, because it is the only way auditors have to critically evaluate pest management activity and performance over time.
Before highlighting specific pest management guidelines in each category, it’s worth noting that the NPMA’s complete Pest Management Standards for Food Plants document is available online at www.npmapestworld.com through the technical support tab on the left-hand side of the home page. In the meantime, this article will provide overviews of each category’s key recommendations. Review these guidelines with your pest management provider to ensure you’re prepared for your next audit.
Pest Management Personnel
Most food plants and food safety auditors have criteria for uniforms and other personal identification that outside vendors must follow for the physical safety of the visiting technician and the security of the food and food-related products on site. The NPMA addresses the most common requirements in their uniform guidelines to ensure compliance across audits and from one plant to the next. Requirements include:
- shoes with slip-resistant soles (steel-toed if required by the plant);
- long pants;
- shirt with short or long sleeves, with company logo or name; and
- bump cap if required by the plant.
The universal standards also call for criminal and motor vehicle background checks for any newly hired pest management employee who services a food plant. The background check has to cover the five years immediately preceding the date of hire. Again, such requirements speak to the ever-present issue of food security in today’s environment.
Because requirements for other security measures such as parking, visitor badges, substitute technicians, and personal escorts vary so much from one facility to the next, NPMA’s guidelines simply recommend that pest management professionals “understand and comply” with all plant policies of this nature and that each plant provide written copies of approved procedures to every technician who services the plant. In other words, NPMA leaves it to you to decide your security policies but wants to make sure your pest management provider understands them and respects them to the letter.