IPM: The Plan You Need to Stay in Business

By MICHAEL BENTLEY, Director of Training and Education, National Pest Management Association (NPMA)

With the challenges food processors face each day, insect and rodent infestations have the potential to be one of the costliest. Unsanitary conditions coupled with disease-carrying pests in food facilities can cause widespread disease outbreaks, making FSMA and current good manufacturing practices compliance imperative.

To help address pest-related sanitation and contamination issues before they have a chance to materialize, facility managers can implement a process of common sense and sound solutions: Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Using IPM — which includes inspection, identification, recommendation, treatment by a pest control professional, and evaluation — can help food processors continuously provide safe products and uninterrupted service, while protecting public health.

COMMON PESTS. Flies, rodents, cockroaches, and stored product pests are commonly associated with food facilities. The house fly has been found to carry and spread more than 100 kinds of disease-causing germs, including  Salmonella and  Listeria. Both rodents and cockroaches can spread Salmonella, easily contaminating areas where they travel and harbor.

Stored product pests can infest plant equipment and contaminate food by leaving body parts and cast skins inside. To make pest control even more challenging, severe infestations can arise in no time.

CHALLENGING FACTORS. Pest management poses unique challenges for every industry, but there are many factors that make it exceptionally difficult in food plants. With raw food and packaging materials entering daily, and sometimes hourly, pests have direct and easy access into buildings. For pests that can’t catch a ride on shipments, exterior lighting and food odors can be attractive. Once inside, pests are drawn to low-traffic or protected areas such as machinery, wall voids, conduits, and conveyors that provide for harborage and breeding.

When pest problems are detected, plant managers may be reluctant to spend money on pest control because aging buildings and equipment are hard to maintain and clean. But, even facilities with pest management procedures in place can encounter complications that make pest control hard to maintain. Dust, grease, excessive moisture, and other byproducts of processing can render some pest control efforts ineffective. Even proactive cleaning measures, while essential, can accidentally ruin some treatment measures if not conducted properly. Similarly, cleaning operations and forklifts often destroy insect and rodent traps, as operators are unaware of their locations.

Because of these unique challenges, the best method of pest control in food processing facilities is a proactive IPM approach:

  • Inspection is essential to solve pest problems quickly and economically. It includes thorough evaluations with building managers and property examination for potential harborage areas and vulnerabilities. Monitoring is part of the inspection, enabling detection of any pest presence.
  • Identification of the pest enables determination of the problem, size, and severity, and recommendation(s) for control. From this an effective management strategy can be developed.
  • Recommendations include not only what the professional can do for the customer and its pricing, but what the customer should do to help eliminate and prevent infestations. These can include harborage site removal, building repairs, and sanitation.
  • Treatment may include sanitation and nonchemical exclusion. Chemical treatments with approved and appropriate product(s) also may be necessary.
  • Evaluation and continuous monitoring of pest population levels is critical to ensure there is no reoccurrence. It is also important to understand how to prevent new pest problems from becoming established, and that any reoccurring pest problems should be handled immediately.

8 TIPS FOR CONTROL. The IPM approach to pest control hinges on the success of long-term, proactive pest control practices, including:

  1. Ensure adequate waste management systems inside and out. Store garbage in sealed containers; keep dumpsters away from entryways; have a working lid that remains closed; and empty regularly.
  2. Use an appropriate sealant to seal all pest entry points around entry ways, pipes and electrical lines, as well as any additional cracks or crevices in the structure.
  3. Institute a “no-prop” door policy.
  4. Address areas conducive to pest activity, (e.g., clutter, debris, open trash, standing water, and overgrown vegetation).
  5. Assess outdoor lighting and install lights that are not attractive to insects, such as sodium vapor bulbs.
  6. Regularly inspect storage areas, equipment, drop ceilings, processing areas, locker rooms, windows, ventilation shafts, and laboratories for signs of pest activity.
  7. Clean high-volume areas daily, such as break rooms and kitchens where crumbs and trash are more likely to build up.
  8. Ensure proper drainage at the foundation; install gutters or drains to channel water away from the building if needed.

Pest infestations that arise after a food facility willingly chooses to forgo proactive, preventive measures tend to wreak far more havoc and cost more to treat than the prevention program that can stave off such pest problems to begin with. To implement a tailored IPM program, hire a professional pest control company that specializes in food-processing plants and commercial facilities to conduct a thorough audit of the interior and exterior of the property and help ensure compliance with FSMA and other standards.


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