California Renderers Review Grease Program

By Tina Caparella

California renderers have a new champion in their corner with the hiring of Paula Batarseh as the new chief of the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA’s) Meat, Poultry, and Egg Safety (MPES) Branch. As a chemical engineer who spent the past 28 years at the California Department of Toxic Substances, Batarseh brings a wealth of environmental experience to her new position and is eager to work with renderers, as she explained at the Rendering Industry Advisory Board (RIAB) meeting in late March.

“I am humbled to be working with this group to bring rendering matters to the attention of the agriculture secretary,” she commented. RIAB Chairman Michael Koewler, Sacramento Rendering Company, served on the committee that interviewed applicants and said Batarseh is a “very qualified candidate.”

During her nearly three decades at the state’s toxic substances department, Batarseh, who has a chemical engineering degree from the University of Toronto, Canada, has spent over 20 years as a supervisor or manager, including as an assistant deputy director and branch manager. She has held positions responsible for new technology assessment, facility evaluation, source reduction, site mitigation, permitting and enforcement, Safer Consumer Product and Green Energy program implementation, and Hazardous Waste Program management. 

At the suggestion of the RIAB, CDFA staff performed additional inedible kitchen grease (IKG) transport manifest audits to ensure compliance with the state’s program. Investigator Paul SanGregorio noted that audits he performed last June on nine companies showed a 55 percent compliance rate primarily due to misinformation. After training the companies, follow-up audits conducted this March showed a 99 percent compliance rate.

“The training does work, but it’s real extensive and hands-on,” he stated. “I found many companies were trying to reinvent the wheel instead of using simple CDFA forms.”

CDFA investigators Louie Lucero and Rett Dunn had similar experiences during their audits, with many companies not understanding the manifest concept. The most common error found was incorrect mathematical calculations/formulas to obtain total IKG collected from the generator and received at the disposal site. RIAB members said the state’s IKG manifest needs to be automated electronically like other information that is required by county agencies. CDFA staff will investigate accommodating that request.

Koewler spoke of the need to share the IKG program requirements with California’s environmental health departments to ensure restaurants are not taking trap grease and placing it in IKG containers, an increasing problem. He noted that grease traps need to be serviced properly to protect sewer systems.

MPES acting branch chief David Schurr, who had previously served as a Food and Drug Administration inspector, reached out to the United States Department of Agriculture to verify if California facilities being inspected were licensed for inedible rendering. He found 70 companies that were not regulated by CDFA when they should have been with a sizeable share of the meat products going to anaerobic digestion. Schurr said 300 new inedible rendering permits have since been issued. In addition, California Safe Soil, which produces a liquid fertilizer and soil stimulant from food recovered from supermarkets, has now been licensed as a renderer as outside laboratory tests show the finished product is pathogen free.

Koewler cautioned CDFA staff on licensing “out of the mainstream” rendering companies that could shift their end product to animal feed if current markets or demand changes or wanes. California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones said while the department supports and prefers traditional rendering for the disposal of meat waste, it has to take a technology-neutral stance provided the end product meets state regulations of being pathogen free.

June 2017 RENDER | back