The Importance of Pest Control in the Food Industry
Pests are inherently drawn towards food. Hence, the food industry is one of the most vulnerable segments which cannot do without pest control to maintain their high levels of food safety. Pests are the carriers of a wide variety of disease causing bacteria, viruses and a host of other organisms. They are a threat to the health of the staff involved in the processing and handling of food, to consumers.
To better understand the importance of pest control in food industry, let’s look at the type of pests, the nature of threats these pests pose and what measures can be taken for effective pest control and prevention.
What Types of Pests Are Hazardous to the Food Industry?
The types of pests vary as per the geography, climate and the food ingredients processed. However, some pests which are found commonly across a majority of food industries are rodents, cockroaches, flies, moths and beetles.
Common Pests in the Food Industry
The types of pests found in food handling, processing or manufacturing facilities differ on the basis of food, environment and geography. Hence, pest control in food industry demands proper identification of the species so that the relevant treatment methods can be employed for effective results. Some of the most common pests found across the food industry worldwide are:
- Cockroaches – These are one of the most loathed pests and for good reason. They are known to be the carriers of 6 kinds of parasitic worms, 7 kinds of human pathogens and at least 33 kinds of bacteria. They also have a knack for hiding in small crevices, varied diet and rapid reproduction capacity. They may also pick up debris and germs on their legs while crawling through sewage and other unclean places which can then be easily transferred to food, work stations, food processing equipment, thus increasing the chances of contamination.
- Rodents – Rodent control is a major problem which the food industry faces even today. Rodents include rats and mice. You can identify a possible rodent infestation through signs such as visual sightings, gnawing sounds, droppings, gnawing of wires and insulation and urine stains which are visible under UV light. They nest close to food sources and are known for their rapid breeding capacity. Risks associated with rodent infestation are damage to property, electrical equipment, machinery, food containers, packaging, contamination of food with droppings, fur, urine, transmission of hazardous parasites thus increasing the risk of serious diseases.
- Flies – Different types of flies are known to be the carriers of over 100 harmful pathogens. They usually breed in decaying garbage and moist unclean environments and then move to fresh food, manufacturing and processing equipment and other work stations, thus contaminating them by spreading disease-causing bacteria. They pick up contaminated material in their mouth parts and on their bodies, as they feed. Some species regurgitate digestive juices and even defecate while feeding and resting. This further increases contamination.
- Birds – They can cause a great amount of physical damage by blocking guttering systems with their nests and feathers as well as dislodging roof tiles, especially the larger birds. Bird droppings, nesting materials and feathers can contaminate food products, surfaces, preparation areas and equipment. Apart from emitting bad odor and being unsightly, bird droppings are poisonous. They can transmit harmful pathogens including bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi. Some of the common disease-causing microorganisms include Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli. Besides, their roosting and nesting sites also encourage infestations of arthropods such as fleas, bird mites and even some species of beetle.
Why Pest Control Is Crucial for the Food Industry?
When it comes to the food industry, pests pose major threats. Some of these are listed below:
- Spreading diseases through a transfer of pathogens
- Property and equipment damage
- Contamination of food products and work stations
- Bad reputation and loss of credit
- Prosecution and closure
How Integrated Pest Management Can Help
Integrated Pest Management or IPM focuses on keeping the pests out of your food facility rather than focusing on eliminating them once they are inside the facility. This approach involves the following steps:
- Inspection – The foremost step towards protecting your facility is a detailed inspection. The obvious places which should be looked into are the ones where the food is – either raw or packaged. For instance, employee break rooms, receiving docks, areas prone to spills etc. Apart from these places, it is also crucial to inspect the entry and exit points, harborage zones (cardboard boxes, closets or any other known hiding and breeding grounds of pests), as well as food and water sources. Usually, a weekly inspection may suffice. But, if your facility has a history of pest infestation, it is advisable that the frequency and intensity of inspections is increased.
- Preventive Action – This step is usually comprised of structural maintenance of your facility which is one of the most effective ways to hinder the entry of pests into your premises. So you should ideally seal off the recognized potential entry points of pests post-inspection. Sanitation is a basic yet important preventive step which can help in making your pest control efforts effective. Keep the production and storage areas clean, dry and orderly. Pest-conducive locations should be recorded, and appropriate control measures should be taken for such areas.
- Monitoring and Documentation – Every step of inspection and prevention should be duly monitored and documented. After implementation of preventive measure, a close watch should be kept on your facility so immediate procedural changes can be implemented to help control and eliminate any recurring pest infestation. Thorough documentation can prove to be useful for future references.
One of the most important things to remember while choosing an Integrated Pest Management program for your facility is that it should be customized to suit the type of infestation, environment of your facility and the nature of your business. This will help ensure that you get the best possible results.
What Prevention Measures Are Recommended?
Facility managers are the first line of defense as they are closely involved in the monitoring of potential entry points and signs of infestation.
- Exclusion and sanitation are two of the most basic yet most effective preventive measures the food industry can take when it comes to keeping their premises pest-free. This essentially helps prevent infestation and leads to a more safe, efficient and organized workplace.
- Eliminate incorrect garbage disposal. Follow a specific system to ensure that the premises of your food facility within and outside remain clean and free from any type of unnecessary clutter and debris.
- Seal all potential pest entry points such as cracks and crevices in areas around the pipes, loading docks, foundations etc.
- Perform regular inspections of areas prone to pest infestation.
- Having a rock or gravel perimeter around the facility will discourage the growth of vegetation which could harbor pests.
Right from raw materials to final packaged goods, every step of the food supply chain should be rigorously monitored. However, regular inspections and proper pest management must be scheduled and conducted to ensure that your facility meets the mandatory norms of food safety.
Ensure that your facility is free from any risks associated with pests by choosing our commercial pest control services. We at Take Care Termite, employ an integrated pest management approach for pest control in food industry for exceptional results. To carry out an inspection or any other pest control requirements for your food processing and handling facility, call us today!