Pest Management and Organic Processing
What Do I Need to Know?
As consumer demand for “healthier” foods continue to grow, the food industry is busy at work to develop and promote products they can market as “organic.” With more organic products hitting the shelves, food processors must quickly adapt to organic standards by implementing organically compliant pest management programs.
While there are some processing facilities that operate as 100 percent organic, and many others that devote a portion of their production to organic product lines, newcomers to organic product processing continue to encounter points of confusion.
To help alleviate some of the confusion around what qualifies as organic, the USDA established The National Organic Program (NOP). Accredited, private organic certifying companies and their agents contract with food processors to ensure programs are compliant and certified by the NOP.
The NOP recommends a step-by-step approach for pest management in organic processing facilities. In addition, NOP requires that all written plans be approved by an organic certifying agent. An organic certifying agent considers a variety of methods that could be acceptable for maintaining organic integrity including the following:
- Consideration of the protection provided by packaging or supplemental covers.
- Consideration for application methods or formulations that are unlikely to have any drift, volatility or other opportunity to contaminate.
- Organic materials and products removed from an area during treatments and returned later.
- Outdoor preventive treatments with virtually no opportunity to contaminate organic materials indoors (conventional rodenticide baits and potentially other outdoor treatments).
A certifying agent’s determination for what he/she finds acceptable when evaluating a facility’s plans varies often. So, it is extremely important to have a knowledgeable pest management professional to help navigate the planning steps and advise on viable options, limitations and methods to maintain organic food integrity.