Decision Making for the Pandemic Vs. Food Pest Management
As this pandemic was unleashed on our society, I was struck by the similarities to my job as a Food Processing Pest Manager. I spend a great deal of my days analyzing data and developing plans to prevent and manage pests in food packing environments. The language being spoken by the authorities is familiar to me. The actions being taken, the graphs and charts being used to track the data, the testing methods and theories, getting ahead of the “bug”, how we look to experts in the field for guidance, the explanation that the data will spike when more testing comes available, the media craze, public panic, misinformation & bad science, mapping the spread, etc.
Substitute Flour Beetles or Indian Meal Moth for the virus. Substitute pheromone monitors for the testing. Substitute the relentless attack on pesticides (where I have seen firsthand the lies and twisting of the truth) with the news misinformation campaign about aspects of this pandemic. The correlation is striking!
Another aspect that I’ve been looking at is whether the preventive measures we’re taking are worth the cost. This one is tough, especially when you are the leader who must make the call. We’re dealing with theories, best guesses and hypotheticals. There’s no right answer, really, and all you can do is make the best choice you can and adjust as more information presents itself.
I’m usually the scientist/expert at the conference table advocating for the preventive measures. I get into passionate discussions with food facility managers over what the prudent course of action should be. This pandemic is giving me a better perspective on those discussions. I already know and accept that some of my preventive recommendations are too costly. The ones we argue over don’t seem to be that major (to me) but maybe they are. I expect that this event will teach me to be a little more empathetic in those meetings.
One thing’s for sure, we all want to produce safe quality food for all our families. How to best go about it is always the question. Healthy debate can help narrow down our choices, but once a decision is made, we need to make the best of it. As we learn more, we can adjust our plan. That is the nature of what we do as a company, what our client facilities do, what I do in my personal life and what we must do as a nation through this current crisis.
Stay healthy, safe and eat nuts!