Falconry as an option for pest control on farms

I’m a fan of the creative approach to using falcons to control wild pests on farms; with the caveat of balancing tradeoffs.

Back when I was doing on farm food safety stuff in greenhouses in Ontario (that’s in Canada) I had many farmers tell me that cats controlled the mice. They often asked what what’s worse – cat poop and feline tracking pathogens on their feet, or rodents everywhere. I never really had a good answer (and suggested traps for the the rodents). Today I saw an article form New Food Economy on using falcons as pest control on ranches and farms, with the click-worthy headline of ‘Could falcons prevent the next salmonella outbreak?’

Not if it’s linked to chicken eggs.

Maybe there’s some merit to the controlling-the-wild-with-the-trained approach, but in the absence of falcon diapers (as Don Schaffner suggested on Twitter) what’s the risk benefit tradeoff related to adding falcon poop into the mix. Maybe vaccination is the key (but I don’t know).

Wildlife biologist Paula Rivadeneira knows feces can be funny. Informally known as Paula the Poop Doctor (@PaulaThePoopDr on Twitter), she’s no stranger to the poop-based pun. Her SCATT lab—that’s Super Cool Agricultural Testing and Teaching lab to you—is a mobile research center inside a bus-sized RV, one she uses in Arizona’s crop fields to makes scat (animal droppings) scat (go away). But she also knows when poop stops being funny: if it gets into the food supply.

A simple, everyday fence can help dispel rodents and ground-based mammals. But how do you keep wild birds away from the open, vast expanse of a crop field? Over the years, farmers have struggled to find workable, cost-effective methods. Netting is too expensive and cumbersome. Chemical repellants can have taste and human health implications. A range of options exist to frighten birds away, from old-fashioned scarecrows and taped distress calls to deafening noise cannons, “exploders,” and sirens, but none are consistently reliable.

Which is where Rivadeneira comes in. As a specialist for the University of Arizona’s cooperative extension, it’s her job to find new ways to keep crop fields safely poop-free. Recently, she’s been at the forefront of a surprising new food safety initiative, one that—somewhat counterintuitively—entails bringing more birds onto agricultural lands. Rather than barricade, poison, or blast interlopers away, she’s helping farmers police their fields with the aid of an unusual ally: trained falcons.

Food supplier fined £180k for rat infestation and unhygienic conditions

Food supplier fined £180k for rat infestation and unhygienic conditions

During the course of my career I have seen many rats in a variety of food outlets. In one instance, I recall finding rats droppings in a restaurant kitchen and heard a loud noise in the food storage room. I walked in with my flashlight and still have nightmares from what I saw, thought it was a cat….Pest control is important to prevent unwanted contamination to the food supply. Evidently, East End Foods thought differently.

James Ridler of Food Manufacture reports

East End Foods has been fined £180k for a rat infestation
Indian cuisine supplier East End Foods has been fined £180,000 for food safety offences, after an infestation of rats was discovered at one of its warehouses in Birmingham.
During a visit on 16 January last year, environmental health officers found rat droppings throughout both floors of the building, plus evidence of gnawed food and packaging.
Inspectors also found that cleaning at the premises was poor, and discovered yogurt past its use-by date.
A Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice, a schedule of work necessary to be carried out to remove imminent risk of injury to health and an application for a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Order were served on East End Foods.
The premises was revisited twice on 19 and 23 January 2017 and was allowed to reopen after inspectors were satisfied that the company had taken steps to improve conditions at the warehouse. The site has since closed.
Pleaded guilty
East End Foods pleaded guilty to three offences under the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 during a hearing at Birmingham Magistrates Court on 4 January this year.
The offences included a failure to put adequate procedures in place to control pests and a failure to ensure food premises were kept clean and maintained in good repair and condition.
The company had also failed to ensure that at all stages of production, processing and the distribution of food were protected against contamination, which was likely to render the food unfit for human consumption.
East End Foods was fined £180,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,453.30, plus a £170 victim surcharge, at Birmingham Magistrates Court on 1 March 2018.
‘Not in accordance with usual standards’
An East End Foods spokesman said: “The company regrets that the conditions at the former wholesale unit were not in accordance with its usual high standards. The company has fully cooperated with the Council.
“The case did not concern any of the company’s food processing facilities, which continue to operate to the very highest standards of quality and cleanliness.”
A rat infestation also forced sandwich manufacturer CK Foods in Bedale, North Yorkshire – trading as Country Kitchens – to close part of its factory for three days last month.
Meanwhile, food manufacturers face a new generation of mutant rats resistant to conventional poison, according to the British Pest Control Association.


Australian restaurant owner ignored cockroach issue because of vegetarianism

Dani was a vegetarian for a while; but she was pretty good at killing pests in the basement apartment we had in college. We collectively addressed a mouse problem with a mix of bait and traps and saved our pantry.

According to the Canberra Times, a vegetarian restaurant owner cited moral issues with “killing little insects” as a reason for a cockroach infestation.

Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant was on Thursday fined $16,000 for eight food safety breaches.7372_10152201579715906_8614767365661662283_n

Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant owner Khanh Hoang was originally charged with 12 breaches of the Food Act. He pleaded guilty to eight offences and appeared for sentence in the ACT

Court documents said the northside eatery – which specialises in vegetarian cuisine – had been granted an operation certificate in December 2012. Inspectors raided the restaurant four months later after a public tip-off to discover the breaches, which included a cockroach infestation, incorrect food storage, a dirty kitchen and equipment and obstructed and faulty handwashing facilities.

Court documents said: “The presence of insects is a key indicator that surfaces are unclean and food is left unattended.”

The toilet did not have an air-lock or self-closing door, which meant it opened directly into the kitchen.

Food had been stored in uncovered containers inside the dishwasher and freezer.

Surfaces and equipment – such as stove top and dirty pots, pans and trays – had been left uncleansed, and covered in dirt, food waste and debris.

Mr Hoang attended an interview with the Health Protection Service in June 2013, where he admitted he had been aware of the cockroach infestation but did not carry out pest control measures as it involved “killing”.

The lawyer said his client had passionate vegan values but accepted, in hindsight, that his morals had been misguided.

Mr Hoang now brought in a pest control team on a regular basis, has since won awards, and appointed a food safety supervisor.

I wonder what part of vegetarian morals storing food in a dishwasher and failing to clean and sanitize food contact surfaces falls into.

Former Philly McDonald Employee’s video shows mice in a bun bag – but was it served?

I’ve only ever seen a mouse at a restaurant once. I was visiting Halifax (that’s in Canada) and had dinner at a popular downtown eatery, Alfredo, Weinstien and Ho’s (the ultimate Italian-Deli-Asian food experience – which has apparently closed). For about 10 minutes we saw a mouse dart in and out of view grabbing food from the floor. After flagging our server down and alerting him to the mouse, he and the manager discretely moved some furniture and the mouse fled the room. The manager came over, thanked us for not making a scene and comped all of our meals (but said we had to pay for our bar tab); not a bad deal.

While mice infestations and droppings elicit a yuck-factor response from TV personalities and guests, I’d prefer to know about how well the staff manages the recognized foodborne illness risk factors: improper cooking temps; improper storage/holding temps; handwashing and hygiene; cross-contamination and safe sources.

In an excellently-titled post, I’m Ralphin’ It of the Day, The Daily What has a video of a mouse problem at a Philly McDonald’s. The video, taken by former employee Karruim Demaio shows a mouse running through a Big Mac bun bag. Pests (rodent and insect) are often a problem for food businesses. Warm, dark places with lots of food is a good spot for a mouse or flies to live. It’s not surprising that there are mice in a storage room.

What is surprising is that Demaio says a manager told him to brush droppings off of the buns and serve them. He says the same manager was seen wiping off pest droppings in the past.

Who knows whether the brush-and-serve actually happened – but that’s where the risk discussion lies. It’s not really a problem until the food makes it to a patron. Identifying a pest problem and dealing with it (which might have happened) happens in a business with a good food safety culture; brush-and-serve doesn’t. All the video shows is that a mouse was there.

Video Shows Mouse In Bag Of Big Mac Rolls: MyFoxPHILLY.com

Nuevo Folleto Informativo: Supermercado clausurado por infestación de insectos

 Traducido por Gonzalo Erdozain

Resumen del folleto informativo mas reciente:

– El control de pestes en la industria alimentaria es importante; sea muy precavido en cuanto a higiene y métodos de almacenamientos.

– No use solo medidas temporarias para eliminar pestes, invierta tiempo y dinero para corregir las causas de dichos problemas.

– Grandes cantidades de alimentos son comprados durante las fiestas, generando espacios adicionales donde dichas pestes pueden esconderse y proliferar.

Los folletos informativos son creados semanalmente y puestos en restaurantes, tiendas y granjas, y son usados para entrenar y educar a través del mundo. Si usted quiere proponer un tema o mandar fotos para los folletos, contacte a Ben Chapman a benjamin_chapman@ncsu.edu.

Puede seguir las historias de los folletos informativos y barfblog en twitter
@benjaminchapman y @barfblog.

Colorado woman says Arby’s sandwich had roach

A Colorado Springs woman says the Arby’s Classic Italian she ordered Wednesday contained a cockroach with an egg sac.

The Gazette reports that within an hour after receiving her complaint on Wednesday, officials from El Paso County Public Health went to the restaurant at 1312 N. Academy Blvd. and found a couple of roaches inside. They ordered management to get pest control in the building within 24 hours.

"As a franchise owner, we take this seriously, we are concerned and we will correct the problem immediately. It’s unacceptable," said Kim Thompson, vice president of human resources and risk for U.S. Beef Corp. in Tulsa, Okla., which operates about 300 Arby’s locations, mostly in the Midwest. "We are cooperating with the health department."

Courtney Gramm could not be reached for comment, but in her complaint with the health department, she says she brought the sandwich home and pulled out some meat to give to her dog. She then noticed the cockroach.

Based on the last inspection of the restaurant in February, there were no violations related to pests. The inspectors’ report from Wednesday said one cockroach was found in the lobby area, and another was found in an area near a sink which had been leaking. But managers said they hadn’t noticed a problem with roaches. The report also notes that the restaurant has monthly pest control service.

Washington Post: A reasonable and rational discussion of microbial food safety

Tomorrow’s Washington Post has a food safety feature with some relevant history and reminders that get lost in the vitriol of activist politics. Excerpts (some will say cherry picking, go read the article yourself) below.

Arthur Allen, a Washington writer and the author of "Ripe: The Search for the Perfect Tomato" (March 2010, Counterpoint), writes that whatever our politics, we increasingly eat from a communal kitchen.

“The increasing number of front-page outbreaks and the high-profile critiques of the food system by such writers as Michael Pollan ("The Omnivore’s Dilemma") and Eric Schlosser ("Fast Food Nation") can give the impression that the U.S. food supply is spiraling out of control. But is Americans’ food, in fact, more dangerous that it was in the day of home-cooked meals? People who have studied the numbers aren’t convinced. …

“In the mid-1990s, the CDC began bolstering its surveillance of food-borne illness. One result was the ability to measure whether food was becoming more or less safe. Between 1998 and 2004, illnesses reported by CDC that were caused by E. Coli, listeria, campylobacter and a few other bacteria decreased by 25 to 30 percent, perhaps because of improvements in the handling of meat and eggs. Since about 2004, however, the rate of these illnesses has basically remained steady.”

John Glenn Morris, director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida at Gainesville, said,

"It’s an ongoing problem, and consumers need to use reasonable caution in terms of food preparation. But it’s not a ‘go screaming down the hall the world is coming to an end’ kind of thing."

Based on its evolutionary tree, scientists think that O157:H7 probably has existed for hundreds or even thousands of years. But it hadn’t been noticed in our food supply until 1982, when a small-town doctor in Oregon reported to the CDC that he’d seen a group of patients with bloody diarrhea. Another group got sick with the same symptoms in Michigan a little later. All had eaten hamburgers at McDonald’s, said Michael Doyle, director of the Food Safety Center at the University of Georgia (left, exactly as shown).

McDonald’s hired Doyle to help fix the problem, and he told company officials that one way to be sure to kill O157:H7 was by heating their hamburgers to at least 155 degrees. McDonald’s officials grumbled that they would lose customers, but they did what he told them, Doyle says. At the time, FDA guidelines recommended heating to 140 degrees.

Most other hamburger chains kept cooking at lower temperatures in order to produce juicier burgers that attracted customers who didn’t like the "hockey pucks" being served at McDonald’s. That continued until 1993, when Jack-in-the-Box reaped the consequences of looking the other way — crippling lawsuits, bankruptcy, $160 million in losses.

But the O157:H7 seems to be out of the barn — and into the pasture. … studies have shown that "natural," grass-fed cattle are now also likely to carry it. In the Earthbound Farm case, genetic fingerprinting indicated that the spinach had been contaminated with bacteria carried by cattle that ranged on land nearby.

Centralization doesn’t necessarily mean less-safe food. A well-run centralized industry is arguably easier to police and control than a more decentralized one. For example, a handful of companies produce most of the 12 million tons of tomato paste that makes its way into pizza and spaghetti sauces, ketchup, salsas and other products. This industry’s record is very clean, in terms of contamination.

Beware of falling mice!

The Birmingham Mail in England reported a couple weeks ago that half a dozen expired mice dropped to the floor next to diners at the food hall in a local Selfridges department store.

The rodents were victims of pest contol measures carried out after mice droppings were spotted in a back-of-house area during regular checks.

caterersearch, who reported the story today, says the mice fell out of the ventilation system.

The surprised diners were refunded and the company apologized in a statement for any distress caused by the fallen mice.

Pest control personnel were called out to clear away the remaining mice.

Additionally, a spokesman explained,

“Environmental health officers were called in to make sure the matter was dealt with and doesn’t happen again.

“At their recommendation we have now identified areas the mice may have been coming in and had those blocked off.”

The spokesman added there had been no more incidents and the food hall was open as usual as soon as these steps were taken.