Industry and Government Confront State Issues

By Tina Caparella

California renderers and grease collectors are excited and optimistic about the newly formed Rendering Industry Advisory Board (RIAB) as a tool in working with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to curtail grease theft in the state. Yet the group realized there is still much work to be done as they met for the second time in early March.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross commended the board on its proactive approach with the department and encouraged renderers to notify the state’s animal health department or her office as early as possible when a situation arises. RIAB Chairman Michael Koewler, Sacramento Rendering Company, revealed that California’s renderers have had a very long and fruitful relationship with CDFA over the past 30 years, something unique in the United States, and returned the accolades on the department’s efforts to work with the rendering industry.

Before grease theft was tackled, some rendering issues were addressed, beginning with Don Brown, Pacific Egg and Poultry Association, who spoke about a spent hen disposal problem for a large number of birds in a short amount of time, primarily in Southern California. After the state’s poultry industry experienced and eradicated exotic Newcastle disease about 10 years ago, most producers continued with the disposal options used at the time, primarily composting. California is home to about 20 million layer hens equally divided between the northern and southern parts of the state. Brown’s company, Moark, LLC sometimes needs to dispose of about 200,000 birds in a five-day period every 12 weeks. The concern by the poultry industry and California’s animal health division is transmission of possible disease if hens are transported any distance. However, Dr. Annette Jones, state veterinarian, said if trucks are covered, hens can be transported to rendering facilities, yet Brown has not been able to find a renderer able to handle the volume in the short amount of time. Renderers at the meeting vowed to work with the Pacific Egg and Poultry Association on the situation.

Ken Decio, California Department of Resources and Recovery, or CalRecycle, informed the board that the department is revising state composting regulations, which were last updated in 2004. He noted that due to the increased activity, anaerobic digester regulations will be written at the same time. With the regulation process currently in the informal stage, CalRecycle has been working with CDFA on where to draw the line on meat products and encouraged renderers to provide their input.

“If you do see something you don’t like, this is your opportunity to tell us,” Decio stated.

On another rendering matter, Dr. Doug Hepper, CDFA, explained that California Safe Soil, LLC has opened a pilot plant in West Sacramento, CA, to convert leftover food from supermarkets into a liquid soil amendment using enzymatic digestion. After some discussion with the company, CDFA issued a temporary research permit for two years instead of a rendering license and will re-evaluate the permit/licensing requirements once the project is complete. California Safe Soil is presently collecting “unsold food” from two neighboring supermarkets and submitting monthly lab results to CDFA on the finished product.

Switching the focus to inedible kitchen grease (IKG) was CDFA’s Dr. Jan Hershenhouse, who disclosed there are 46 renderers (18 traditional, 28 IKG renderers), 53 collection centers, and 388 IKG transporters (341 commercial, 47 personal) licensed in California. CDFA investigator Louie Lucero reported a collection center in Modesto that was accepting “a lot of” stolen grease has had its registration revoked and a fine imposed. Investigator Paul Roos informed the board that in Southern California, six registrations were not renewed in 2013 due to illegal activity and one case of a registration decal (required by state law for transporting IKG) that was forged is now in the hands of the district attorney’s office.

In an effort to develop comprehensive IKG theft data, CDFA staff instructed renderers and grease collectors to file a report of all IKG thefts to local police agencies. Once the agency returns a confirmation report, renderers and grease collectors should then forward the report to CDFA for monitoring. Compiling the most accurate data on where thefts are occurring will give department investigators areas to target for law enforcement activity and education.

“IKG is the new metal theft, but no one talks about it,” said CDFA special investigator Paul SanGregorio. “It’s important we get the word out.”

Doug “Spike” Helmick Jr., retired commissioner of the California Highway Patrol and the pubic member on RIAB, agreed that CDFA needs to quantify the grease theft problem – how many thefts, what is the monetary loss, when are they occurring (time of day, days of week, etc.) – and report that information to law enforcement.

“Our outreach program needs to be far more outreaching,” Helmick commented.

Another tool in the state’s IKG program, a transporter manifest, went into effect April 1, 2013, with CDFA conducted training programs to ensure accurate compliance. The board voted to hold their next public meeting in early May.

April 2013 RENDER | back