Plant Export Operations Standard for Vapour Heat Treatment of Fruit Fly Host Products

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​1 Background

1.1 Purpose

This standard describes the requirements for vapour heat treatment (VHT) of fruit fly host products as a phytosanitary measure for export. Where country specific requirements vary from this document, the country specific requirements take precedence. Importing country requirements can be found on the Department of Agriculture Manual of Importing country Requirements (MICoR), available through the department’s website.

This standard must be read in conjunction with the Plant Export Operations Manual (PEOM) which provides additional detail, including why Authorised officers undertake certain tasks. The PEOM is available through the department’s website.

Definitions for terms used in this document may be found on the Department of Agriculture website. For guidance on any issues that are not covered by this standard, specific work plans for protocol markets or the PEOM, contact the Department of Agriculture Plant Export Manager in your local area.

The purpose of VHT is to raise the product pulp temperature up to or above a defined treatment level and maintain that temperature for a specified period of time. VHT is considered by many importing countries to be an effective treatment against pests such as fruit fly.

1.2 Commodities

This standard applies to fruit fly host products for export to countries that require VHT of such products.

1.3 Work health and safety

Before entering a site, Department of Agriculture authorised officers (Department of Agriculture AOs) and industry authorised officers (industry AOs) must be confident that it is safe to do so, and be aware of Work Health and Safety (WH&S) hazards. All sites are different and employer WH&S policies and relevant national, state and/or territory WH&S policies must be adhered to.

When entering a site, approach the appropriate person and inform them of your attendance on the site. Complete any sign in and sign out procedures.

Refer to the PEOM for more details.

1.4 Authorised officers

Department of Agriculture AOs and industry AOs must hold the appropriate qualifications to supervise or undertake any aspect of vapour heat treatment. This includes the ‘treatment’ job function and where applicable the ‘protocol markets’ job function.

2 Treatment Facility requirements

This section contains the Department of Agriculture approved standard for VHT facility requirements. This standard is designed to assist Australian horticulture industry groups in making sure that their VHT facilities meet export requirements.

2.1 General requirements

VHT begins once the core temperature of the product has reached the specified temperature. In order for a treatment to be deemed effective by the importing country, the required temperature must be maintained for the time specified. The consignment will be rejected if a completed treatment does not meet the temperature requirement of the importing country.

A treatment facility must comprise of:

  1. An approved treatment chamber for VHT with equipment capable of raising, maintaining and monitoring the air temperature and relative humidity in the chamber and the pulp temperature of treated products
  2. A secure area for packing and storing products after treatment. All openings greater than 1.6 mm must be sealed or meshed to prevent potential infestation form occurring. Entry and exit points to the treatment and packing areas must have systems in place to reduce the entry of quarantine pests (e.g. air lock or double door entry system, spraying area between doors before movement of goods, electronic insect zapping devices, vertical plastic strips and positive air flow curtains).
    Secure packing areas for exports must be disinfested by residual insecticide annually before initial operation. Additional insecticide applications may be required as deemed necessary by the department or the importing country during the export season.

2.2 Registration and export listings

Facilities must ensure they are registered with the department under the Export Control Act 1982. This differs from establishment approval under protocol conditions – for these importing country requirements, please refer to work plans and protocols (available on MICoR).

Where required by importing countries, treatment facilities must complete an application form to become an approved facility under a particular protocol. Application forms and lodgement details will be available in an Industry Advice Notice (IAN) released by the department before exports commence each year.  Application forms must be received by the department on the date specified in the IAN.

2.3 Documentation and record keeping

Treatment facilities are responsible for maintaining all documentation for the export season and must provide it to the department upon request. This includes:

  • Department of Agriculture endorsed application for treatment facility export approval form (available in IAN)
  • Department of Agriculture horticulture export establishment registration certificate
  • Temperature probe calibration records
  • Treatment records for up to two years
  • Documented pathway and records of the movement of products from receival to despatch at the treatment facility.

Refer to the PEOM for further information on documentation required for treatment facilities that are registered establishments under the Export Control Act 1982.

2.4 Suspension

If a live fruit fly is found in treated fruit during the export inspection or during inspection upon arrival in importing country, the consignment and any exposed fruit in the facility will be rejected for export and cannot be reconditioned. The Department of Agriculture will determine the status of secured fruit and any inspection lots still on premises.

The facility responsible for the treatment of the consignment will be suspended from conducting any further treatments to any markets. The department will conduct an investigation into the cause of the failure. Only after the investigation has been completed and recommended improvements have been completed may the facility be reinstated. Appointments for Department of Agriculture inspectors to view corrective actions at facilities must be made as per standard booking procedures. These reinstatement inspections will be prioritized as a regular inspection request, as per the department’s service charter. Audit costs will be borne by the facility.

The department will provide a report to the overseas authorities on the cause of the failure, results of the investigation and improvements that have been implemented.

Insecticide must be applied to the entire premises before recommencement of treatment.

3 Treatment

This section contains the Department of Agriculture approved standard for undertaking VHT. This section is designed to assist:

  • Australian horticulture industry groups in making sure that VHT is carried out correctly
  • Department of Agriculture officers or persons approved by the department that are supervising VHT to ensure that it complies with importing country requirements.

Products must be kept secure in the treatment chamber(s) during the whole treatment process. Products for other destinations may be treated simultaneously, provided that fruit is separated during the process of treatment, packing, storage, inspection and transport, and that the importing country allows this option. Refer to work plans/protocols for further information on the importing country requirements.

3.1 Requirements for temperature recording system

  • The recording system (the combination of the VHT data recorders and the associated product pulp temperature sensors) must be accurate in accordance with temperature requirements detailed by the importing country
  • Temperature probes will comprise a number of air and product pulp sensors. The number of sensors used will depend on the size, layout and configuration of the treatment facility and importing country requirements.
  • The chamber must have a means of measuring humidity (hygrometer)
  • The VHT system must be able to identify each separate temperature probe, and constantly record and store data for the duration of the treatment
  • The VHT system must be able to print data.

3.2 Calibration of temperature probes

This is a Department of Agriculture approved standard for the calibration of temperature probes for VHT treatment. If a VHT facility wishes to use an alternative calibration method, it must be submitted to the Department of Agriculture at Horticulture Exports Program for approval. Please note that calibration methods stipulated in importing country conditions must be adhered to.

  • Calibration of temperature probes must take place at the beginning of the export season and once per month during the export season. Calibration will be supervised by a department officer or persons authorised by the department
  • The calibration thermometer must be certified in the form of a valid National Association of Testing Authorities certificate every three years
  • Calibration thermometers (e.g. MiG) with minimum increments specified in importing country conditions shall be used to calibrate temperature probes. Any temperature probe that is unable to display temperatures falling within limits of the calibration thermometer (as specified by the importing country) must be replaced
  • Calibration will be performed by placing all temperature probes in a hot water vat. Each probe must sit separately within the vat (i.e. not touch one another). The temperature of water in the vat must be stabilised to 47 °C against a reference thermometer before commencing the calibration test. The temperature probes must read within ±0.2 °C of 47 °C. Each probe must be calibrated three times to ensure that there is repeatability of readings, this involves removing the probes from the vat and allowing their readings to move away from 47°C before inserting them back into the water and re-stabilising to 47°C.

3.3 Placement of temperature probes

A department officer or persons authorised by the department will supervise the placement of temperature probes in products prior to treatment.

The largest product sample (e.g. pieces of fruit) from each treatment lot (consignment in the chamber) will be selected for the placement of the temperature probes. The number of probes will be confirmed on initial approval inspection by department officials. If the treatment facility wishes to use an alternative probe placement plan and number of probes, please submit this plan with supporting data to the Department of Agriculture. This alternative plan will need to be approved by the department and/or the importing country.

The temperature probes will be inserted by the treatment operator into the pulp of the selected products (e.g. fruit) as close as possible to the seed without touching the seed. A tool with aperture narrower than the probe may be used to plot the insertion path for the probe.

3.4 Running test

A chamber test or running test must be performed before the first treatment of each commodity export season to ensure equipment is functioning accurately. If deemed necessary by importing country requirements, an overseas NPPO inspector may supervise the chamber or running test.

3.5 Undertaking treatment

  • A department officer or persons authorised by the department will supervise VHT treatments. NPPO inspector from the importing country may also need to supervise treatment - these requirements can be found in work plans/protocols
  • Treatments are undert​​aken following temperature regimes and parameters according to importing country requirements
  • A Department of Agriculture officer or persons authorised by the department will endorse the beginning of the treatment, once the chamber seal/ equivalent security sealing measure has been removed and the chamber has reached the required temperature conditions detailed in the importing country requirements. 

3.6 Completion of treatment procedures

Upon completion of treatment, treatment lot/s results will be endorsed and verified by the Department of Agriculture or persons authorised by the department. Printouts of the treatment data will be used for the verification of successful treatment and will be kept on file at the facility.

Confirmation of a valid treatment will not be given if:

  • The whole treatment process lasts less than two (2) hours
  • Any probe falls below the required parameters or is not inserted into product as per importing country conditions.

3.7 Continuation of a failed treatment

If temperature during the treatment phase falls below the parameters specified, the exporter can choose to re-commence and continue treatment until the correct parameters are met.

Failed treatment lots must not enter the secure area of the facility.

Documentation for the failed treatments must be kept on record by the VHT facility and presented to the department when requested.

4     Post Treatment Security

For all requirements regarding post treatment security of fruit and use of transfer certificates, refer to the PEOM.​