With heightened attention surrounding the spread of diseases, now more than ever, it’s important to ensure safe production and distribution of food. As consumers turn to non-perishable products during the pandemic, dry ingredients are king, and the last thing your supply chain needs is a pest infestation to cause lost products and profits.
Food processing and retail facilities are a delight for pests as they contain everything necessary for pests to survive. Pests pose a major threat to food safety as they can spread various foodborne illnesses. Stored product pests can be found at the manufacturing plant, the packaging facility, or the distribution center and can go unnoticed in packaging until it makes its way to its final destination—the consumer’s pantry.
Moths, beetles, and weevils enjoy dry ingredients such as seeds, grains, and dried meats, and burrow themselves into stored products to feed. These types of pests also breed quickly so swift action is essential to prevent a larger problem. Cigarette beetles, drugstore beetles, and flour beetles are small, reddish brown insects that can feed, reproduce, and survive in the product.
On the larger side, cockroaches are another harmful pest to look out for when it comes to stored products. Not only can they eat their way through almost anything, they can transfer harmful bacteria such as salmonella and streptococcus.
An integrated pest management (IPM) program can help strengthen pest control defenses by preventing pests before they become an issue. Proactive measures such as monitoring, exclusion, and sanitation can prevent pests from contaminating products and protect your business’ reputation.
Proper maintenance of a facility’s exterior is one of the most effective ways to keep pests out.
Closely inspect all incoming shipments for live insects, webbing, and damaged product and packaging. These could all be signs of stored product pests. If pests are suspected, take a sample and place in a closed, labeled container to monitor for about a month (the typical time it takes to go from egg to adult) and see if any activity occurs.
Deteriorating products are ideal hiding places for stored pests, so remove older and damaged products first. Also, store products 18 in. away from the walls in any warehouse areas to allow for easier cleaning and monitoring of the surrounding areas. Dispose of excess packaging immediately to avoid creating hiding places for pests.
Because food safety is a top priority for food processing facilities, you should already have a sanitation routine in place. Enhance cleaning efforts by incorporating the following practices to help maintain a clean, pest-free environment.
- You might encounter an excess amount of product in storage areas due to coronavirus, so make sure all products are stored in airtight containers and kept off the ground on openbacked shelves to avoid creating pest hiding spots.
- Look out for wet or damp spots to prevent mold and an environment where pests can thrive.
- Ensure grain is free of dockage as it is being placed into storage.
- Remove food debris from production floors as soon as possible to avoid cross-contamination or buildup of organic matter.
- Disinfect all high-traffic hard surfaces as often as possible with a proper disinfectant that kills bacteria and pathogens to limit the spread of foodborne illnesses and other diseases from pests.
A pest problem in your facility can quickly become a problem for the entire supply chain. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your supply chain and confirm they are inspecting shipments for pests before and after they handle them. The more proactive your supply chain is when it comes to pest control, the easier it will be to spot a pest issue and resolve it before it gets out of control.
Pest control remains an essential service to protect public health and food supply. Work with your pest control provider to ensure regular inspections continue as often as possible to identify any pest issues and develop an effective treatment plan.
Because food safety is a top concern for your business, pest control should also be top of mind. Maintaining a proactive approach to pest management at a time such as this will not only reduce your chances of dealing with an unwanted pest infestation, it will also reassure consumers that you value their health and wellbeing.
By Frank Meek, BCE, board-certified entomologist and 30-year industry veteran, is a technical services manager for Rollins, LLC. Reach him at email@example.com.