A Renderer is a Renderer is a Renderer

By Tina Caparella

Having met just two months prior, the Rendering Industry Advisory Board (RIAB) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) convened again in mid-May to further address the complexities facing the state’s renderers. Although grease theft remained the primary topic of discussion, part of the meeting focused on one company’s request to CDFA for a new restricted version of the state’s rendering license to address fresh food recycling.

Dan Morash, California Safe Soil, explained the enzymatic technology his company is using to convert organics from local supermarkets into a fertilizer for local farmers. Located in a 4,000 square foot warehouse in West Sacramento, 80 percent of the organics collected are produce and bakery waste and 20 percent are “post-inspected” meat and fish products. Material is separated at the supermarket into two totes (produce and meat), picked up every other day, and processed in about three hours by grinding, adding enzymes, then heating for pasteurization. The finished product is an amino acid that is used as fertilizer or in anaerobic digestion.

Claiming his process produces no odors, Morash is requesting a change in regulation to make it more feasible for his company to obtain an operating permit. His reason for the petition to add a new limited license for “fresh food recycler” is that a rendering permit is difficult to get approved in urban areas due to the stigma attached to the rendering process, which includes odors. Morash’s plan is to locate future facilities as close to supermarkets as possible.

RIAB members expressed their concerns that Morash’s business is technically rendering and therefore should be labeled as such. California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones rationalized that it’s a food safety issue since California Safe Soils is collecting and processing meat products. Morash confirmed his enzymatic biomimicry model does not work without the 20 percent meat products.

RIAB Chairman Michael Koewler, Sacramento Rendering Co., said he understands Morash’s view, but defended the board’s concerns by stating, “You plan on competing with companies who have been doing this for hundreds of years providing for the safe disposal of animal by-products in order to preserve animal and human health, but you want to fly under a different flagship.” Koewler pleaded with CDFA to step up to the plate and attest that there have been no animal disease outbreaks from animal by-products in the state due to the oversight of the industry by the department.

Doug Smith, Baker Commodities, reiterated the need for rendering operations to remain under the control of CDFA to ensure the safety of animal and human health.

Morash continued to debate that his process does not fall under the definition of rendering since 80 percent of his input is produce; he eventually admitted he doesn’t want to be called a renderer and be subject to some of the restrictive requirements under the state’s rendering license that may not apply to his technology.

“There’s a lot in a name,” he commented. RIAB members decided to further investigate the matter and get back to Morash at a later date.

Grease theft also had a fair share of discussion during the meeting, beginning with CDFA special investigators reporting on the activity throughout the state, including a licensed renderer who was caught stealing and is now facing fines. The biggest case recently was the closure of and $8,000 fine imposed on a collection center that was receiving inedible kitchen grease (IKG) from an unregistered transporter. However, word from a nearby renderer is that they have relocated their operation, prompting CDFA to look into the matter.

The state’s new manifest law went into effect April 1, 2013, and one CDFA investigator said he has seen an increase in application requests to transport IKG because collection centers are refusing loads without documentation. Another investigator held a meeting with Sacramento, CA, area members of the American Society of Industrial Security to educate individuals who are in charge of the security at local grocery stores, restaurants, and shopping malls on grease theft.

“Most people were engaged with it and were unaware of the problem,” Paul San Gregorio noted. “This is a great group to network with.” Jones encouraged renderers to engage with the state restaurant and grocers associations, with Koewler adding that informing these groups that loss of IKG means loss of revenue for restaurants/grocery stores creates another victim besides renderers.

San Gregorio also reported that an education grant for the Orange County district attorney’s office has resulted in two convictions for grease theft; one offender received six months of jail time and the other a nine month jail sentence due to it being a third strike, even though only $55 worth of IKG was stolen.

CDFA announced that “Stop Grease Theft Now” decals are available for placement on grease containers or the back doors of restaurants to inform the general public and employees about how to report IKG crimes by way of a toll free number and/or website. A $500 reward is offered for an arrest leading to a conviction. Reporting by these means allows CDFA to gather the data and go directly to the law enforcement agency responsible in the theft area.

RIAB members heard different strategies on how the industry can move the grease theft program forward, but it was decided at this time to see how the new manifest law works and partner with the California Highway Patrol in hopes of using the agency as a leader for other law enforcement groups. One CDFA investigator mentioned there appears to be increasing awareness of the grease theft program by some law enforcement personnel as evident by the number of training requests in recent months.

The next meeting of the RIAB will be scheduled for later this summer and announced to the public by CDFA.

June 2013 RENDER | back