A new Europe-wide initiative has been launched with the aim of raising professional standards in pest control. To understand what this means for the UK’s food sector, Produce Business UK interviews the British Pest Control Association’s (BPCA) chief executive, Simon Forrester, and hears comments from the Fresh Produce Consortium and two pest control companies who are the first in the UK to be accredited against the European benchmark
If there’s one thing that unites all aspects of the food industry – from growers and distributors to retailers and the end consumer – it’s the desire for confidence and trust in the supply chain.
With the notions of public health, food safety and professional standards uppermost in everyone’s minds, having one less thing to worry about is certainly something to be welcomed. With that in mind, it’s no wonder the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) believes recent moves to enhance standards in pest control will benefit the food industry.
Earlier this year, the Confederation of European Pest Management Associations (CEPA) launched its European Standard for Pest Management Services (EN16636), which will act as a demonstration of professional credentials. It’s the cornerstone of a strategy to portray a positive image of the pest management industry in terms of public health, food safety, environmental sustainability and economic significance.
The BPCA is putting each of its servicing members through the new EN16636 standard and earlier this month [December] two British companies, Premier Pest Control and Ecolab Pest Elimination, became the first to be accredited against the benchmark.
How will the UK food industry and its buyers benefit from this move by BPCA to raise pest control standards?
Simon Forrester (SF): In simple terms, it will deliver peace of mind. One of the regular issues we hear of from pest control clients is that when they establish a specification that says ‘must be a BPCA member’ they are challenged by other groups to revise their documents to say ‘or equivalent’. This is something of a misnomer as there are no equivalents out there. Other bodies might tick boxes on an audit, or simply ask for a cheque and a cursory check on insurances, but we go way beyond that already.
However, we have listened to clients wishing to establish clear criteria that cannot be challenged with threats of legal action by other bodies. We are therefore putting every BPCA servicing member through the new European Standard for Professional Pest Management Services (EN16636) and encouraging them to apply for its accompanying certification programme, CEPA Certified®.
Our members will each be independently assessed by Bureau Veritas, a global certification body – we are the only UK organisation that does this. We are investing in this for the benefit of our members’ clients. This will put our members on a level playing field with the best pest management companies in the world and will mean that, by employing members of the BPCA, food companies and buyers can be totally confident of a professional service.
What does it mean for retailers?
SF: Retailers who insist their supply chain only uses pest management companies that meet the standard will be able to know that the products, packaging, even their printed materials are all kept pest-free by trained and competent experts employed by companies who have been independently measured and have passed this yardstick. By insisting on pest control companies with achieved CEPA Certified status, any organisation would benefit from:
Access to a network of professional companies across the EU: Just look for the CEPA Certified logo.
Regular assessment: The knowledge that the companies you are working with are objectively assessed on a regular basis, as CEPA Certified companies are independently audited on an 18-month cycle.
Improved quality: CEPA Certified companies must only use trained and qualified staff to carry out pest management activity, and their back office staff must also meet agreed standards.
Improved service effectiveness: CEPA Certified companies have the support of a network of technical, legislative and other support to ensure they use best practice at all times.
Reduced use of biocides: CEPA Certified companies practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which ensures biocides are used as a last resort and where they are, proper waste management principles are followed.
Peace of mind when selecting a pest control company: CEPA Certified companies are audited to an internationally recognised standard (EN16636).
Reduced risk: CEPA Certified companies use risk analysis and root cause analysis to discover the causes of pest infestations, and remove them for good.
Easier comparability: CEPA Certified certification defines metrics for measurement of service performance and quality levels.
Improved interaction: The CEPA Certified certification provides guidelines and procedures to facilitate and improve the effectiveness of interaction between client and provider.
Improved transparency: Services provided by CEPA Certified companies must use formal reporting structures to keep clients informed.
Greater measurability: CEPA Certified companies use standard performance indicators.
“Good hygiene, including an effective pest control system, is vital throughout the supply chain. Our guidelines produced with the British Retail Consortium on the BRC Global Food Safety Standard recommend that sites should have in-depth, documented pest control surveys undertaken by a pest control expert. The BPCA scheme which provides accredited status to pest controllers will give additional confidence to fresh produce businesses when selecting experts.”
– Nigel Jenney, Fresh Produce Consortium
How significant is this move?
SF: This is the first common standard for pest management companies in the world, and enables clients to benchmark their providers against an independent yardstick. The first two companies were accredited against the standard this month [December], and we have a programme to get over 450 companies measured against the standard in the next 18 months. This is a benchmark of quality recognised throughout Europe and beyond.
What fears will it allay?
SF: The danger is that internal audits by trade bodies are potentially weakened by pressure to allow companies to pass, which we know happens in other trade associations. By using third party verification, clients can be sure audits are legitimate and every BPCA member company is held to the same high standard.
Client concerns over the quality of pest management services are allayed by insisting on this standard. It’s often difficult to differentiate between companies, and this provides a simple benchmark. One concern we hear regularly is that procurement teams don’t actually understand pest management, and so buy on price or name – this standard allows them a simple measure.
The CEPA Certified audit against EN16636 involves the entire structure of the company to make sure everything from its working practices and training to its ethos and values is correctly aligned.
“We do a lot of work in the commercial food industry and clients include major manufacturers and distributors along with large catering operations. So it’s very important for us to demonstrate our professional status and achieving this accreditation is independent proof of that.”
– Chris Cunningham, Premier Pest Control
Premier Pest Control receive their EN16636 accreditation
What are the parameters of the quality benchmark?
SF: The standard delves into every aspect of the pest control company, from their front line call handling to sales, contracts and how they actually handle the pest management issues on site. It’s not just a paper exercise; auditors go out on site with technicians and ask some pretty searching questions to ensure that what is said at HQ is embedded in the ethos of the organisation.
All companies who wish to pass the standard need to employ integrated pest management, which basically means managing the pest problem before it begins by making the site unattractive to pests. It also reduces the quantity of biocides used, which is good for the environment. All BPCA member companies will be at least working towards the standard from January and we are aiming to help everyone pass the audit by our deadline of June 2017.
How much of a problem are untrained pest controllers?
SF: A significant issue. We know of many pest controllers who are untrained and do not stay up-to-date with the latest products, techniques and legislation. It is something that can create big problems. Clients cannot simply hire the cheapest and sit back – any prosecution would ask what verification process you had gone through when selecting your supplier. CEPA Certified, and by extension BPCA membership, gives that peace of mind.
Any client is trusting their reputation to their pest control company.
Recent changes to the way rodenticides are used will have a major impact on how pest controllers work – the old system of a ring of bait boxes around your site cannot be sustained. Also, next year sees a huge shake-up of wildlife legislation. If your pest controller can’t demonstrate they are aware of and have adapted to these changes, it could be you in the dock alongside them.
“This award means our customers and partners can remain assured of our complete commitment and ability to provide safe, high-quality professional pest management services.”
– Roy Smith, Ecolab Pest Elimination
Ecolab with their EN16636 certification
What are the latest innovations and techniques in pest control?
SF: In terms of products, there are several innovations in pest management.
From remote monitoring systems that alert the technician to foam-based rodenticides that overcome issues of bait shyness, our sector is constantly innovating. One key change though is the demand for this standard. We are in talks with the major specification bodies and large clients about embedding EN16636 into their next issues and they have each embraced it. It’s simply a question of ‘when’.
How will consumers benefit from these changes?
SF: This is a move that sends out a strong message that when people use BPCA members they can have peace of mind that the job will be done properly. It also helps our collective drive to ensure the public can trust the food they eat, the hotels they stay in, and the products they buy. We want the BPCA to remain the mark of professionalism in UK pest management and for clients to know to look for our logo every time they select a pest management company, safe in the knowledge that they are hiring a professional, not a cowboy.