Pest management is challenging in a food processing facility—the abundance of food, ideal moisture and temperature conditions, extended business hours and various harborage sites create conducive conditions that allow pest infestations to thrive. Maintaining a safe, clean site requires facility managers to be fully aware of these challenges and be ready to face them
Pest Management as a Priority
In the world of food processing, facility managers have a long list of standards that must be met and pest management is just one of them. However, the health dangers that insects can pose demand that pest management be made a priority in food facilities. Many insects can carry disease-causing pathogens that can be passed to food through their feces and saliva. Flies have been proven to spread more than 65 kinds of human diseases. Cockroaches, some of the most difficult insects to control, have been reported to spread at least 33 kinds of bacteria, six kinds of parasitic worms, and seven other human pathogens. Insects can also be accidentally processed into the product. Proper pest management allows processors to avoid unnecessary fines or closure due to failed inspections.
Regulations and Regulators
The food processing industry is subject to a number of regulating bodies. There are specific guidelines and regulations that dictate what products can be used, where those products can be used and what level of control must be achieved. Government implement food safety standards for foods produced. Governments also inspect food manufacturing plants inside local jurisdictions and have the right to embargo, stop the sale of, or recall unsafe food products made or distributed. All pesticide products must be registered by the Department of Agriculture under act 36 of 1947, including those used in food handling areas. Registration is granted after the Department determined that use of the product according to the label instructions will not cause unreasonable risk to the applicator, facility operators or to people consuming the food. In addition to inspections by the government entities, food processors are also subject to reviews by third party auditors that serve the food processing industry.
Using a Pest Management Professional
To ensure that a facility is meeting regulations and passing inspections, it is imperative that it be under the care of a trained professional. Thorough knowledge of the plant’s prerequisite programs, manufacturing practices, approved product lists and sanitation programs is critical to success. PMPs should also be aware of new pest control products and application techniques to fully offer the facility the best pest management program.
Integrated Pest Management
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a comprehensive approach to solving pest problems. Instead of simply trying to eradicate a pest, an IPM approach considers all of the information, accounts for multiple objectives, and considers all available preventative and curative options. Based on that foundation, informed treatment decisions are implemented to achieve optimum results. However, in general terms the goal of IPM is to provide a safe, effective, and economical outcome. In the IPM approach, a pest management professional must first identify the pest and understand its biology and the environment in which it exists. Then the PMP can monitor for the pest and implement other natural controls including removing the pest’s food and water sources. After establishing natural controls, an appropriate management strategy can be developed and implemented.
To ensure that a facility does not develop future infestations, a preventative maintenance program should be developed. Close collaboration between the PMP, facility manager and trained plant employees, is the hallmark of a successful pest prevention program. Every facility should have an employee-training program that underscores the importance of pest management and sanitation. Sanitation is critical to pest prevention in food facilities. Processing equipment should not only be clean but sanitized. Cleaning is simply removing dirt or debris, whereas sanitizing actually removes surface bacteria and microorganisms. Research has shown that pests can survive pesticide exposure when they have access to even small amounts of food. Therefore, proper sanitation is essential for pest control products to work effectively. A sanitation plan must be created and clearly communicated to all employees. Regular maintenance and proper sanitation will ensure that facility management will be prepared to effectively treat and prevent future pest problems.
Pest management is a universal challenge in the food processing industry, but not a challenge that cannot be overcome. Preventative measures and a skilled pest management team are the best defenses against pest infestations.