On Tuesday 16 October Londons South Bank was a magnet for a diverse audience of Environmental Health Officers (EHOs), senior managers from both the manufacturing and retail sides of the food and drink sector, consultants, port authorities and pest management professionals.
The Chartered Institute of Environment Health’s (CIEH) Pest Control Conference: Safeguarding Public Health attracted some 75 delegates to the CIEH head office in London. Local authorities represented came from across the country – furthest travelled were those from South Lakeland, Stockton on Tees, Bury and North Norfolk. Local authorities closer to London were also well represented – Watford, Dartford, Bedford, Stevenage and so on, as were those from within the capital – Tower Hamlets, Westminster and the City of London Corporation.
Diverse subjects on the agenda
The topics presented were equally diverse. Dr Jolyon Medlock from Public Health England covered the growing risk from invasive species, in particular mosquitoes and ticks which can be vectors of a range of very nasty diseases. One of the key points he made was the need to consider the potential conflicts between infectious disease risk and biodiversity goals. For example rewilding projects to create wetland can also provide great breeding habitat for mosquitoes. He suggested that a vector risk assessment should be included in local government environmental impact assessments.
The session by Dr Belinda Stuart-Moonlight addressed the practical problems EHOs may have in obtaining a successful prosecution in relation to potential harm to the public from rodent contamination of food. She reviewed the new sentencing guidelines explaining how these refer to the risk of harm i.e. the health effects (or more likely the potential health effects) from actual consumption of food that has been at risk of rodent contamination. There is a yawning gap between risk of contamination and being able to prove actual harm or high liklihood of harm to an individual.
Dr Mark Lambert had the biggest of all topics to address: What does Brexit mean for pest control? Mark is currently on secondment to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) focussing on World Trade Organisation (WTO) policy and EU and international trade policy. Whilst clearly a lot of work is going on to ensure continuity of the legal system once Brexit happens the impact on pest control is not clearcut. In terms of regulation little will change, at least in the short term. Economic impacts may see the price of imported public health pesticides rise with WTO tarrifs and/or unfavourable exchange rates. Labour shortages may be exacerbated.
Adding the science to the programme was Frederica Boiocchi, PhD fellow from Aston University who outlined her PhD project which will look at household arthropods with the first ever UK survey. As well as identifying the species Federica will be conducting microbiological analysis to identify the bacteria they carry.
More familiar ground
In more familiar territory for pest professionals Killgerm’s Dr Matt Davies covered the relatively recent rodenticide changes including the toxic to reproduction reclassification, the new permanent baiting guidance from the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU) and the new Rodenticide Resistance Action Group’s (RRAG) resistance management guidelines.
Also on more familiar ground was the session from Acheta’s Chris Swindells. Chris outlined research by Acheta which showed how mice in some locations have learnt to avoid bait boxes making the boxes pretty much useless as both monitoring and control tools. Using tracking dust and remote monitoring sensors provided plenty of evidence of mouse activity yet the pest control servicing company records showed no activity as no bait had been taken. The research throws up some big questions about how to control mice exhibiting this behavioural resistance. It also demonstrated the effectiveness of the remote sensors used. Unlike some systems, the one used by Acheta allowed the sensors to be positioned away from boxes and traps and Chris wondered how effective some other systems might be if they required the mice to enter the boxes!
Rounding off the day in the final session were presentations by Dr Aliona Jones from BASIS PROMPT and Ferenc Varga food safety manager for Nestle.
Aliona provided some background to this not for profit organisation which was set up in the 1970s to improve standards in pesticide stores and has gone on to use its standard raising expertise to, among other things, operate professional registers in agriculture, amenity pesticides and public health pest management.
Ferenc brought the day to a close by outlining how Nestle manages its pest control and what the company is looking for in its pest management servicing partners. Nestle has gone from mostly in-house to fully contracting out for its 400 factories globally. More recently considerable effort has gone into creating in-house pest control champions who understand enough about pest management to be able to work closely with their local pest control contractor with the ultimate goal of achieving zero pests.