Pest Control 101: How to Get Pests Under Control

By JIM FREDERICKS, Chief Entomologist and Vice President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs, National Pest Management Association (NPMA)

Due to the rise in demand for pure, wholesome goods, food processors and packagers must be more vigilant than ever before when it comes to pest management and safety. In order to quickly adapt to the continuously evolving world of pest management, facility managers must, first and foremost, know what kind of pests they are up against, the threats each one poses, and when to call in a professional. If they don’t, the ramifications of unsanitary conditions coupled with disease-carrying pests could spell disaster.

Processing and packaging facilities provide a surplus of food, water, and harborage for pests. These conducive conditions allow pests to multiply quickly where they can spread disease and contaminate goods. Following is a look at rodents, flies, cockroaches, and stored product pests — the most common pests to infest processing and packaging facilities.

  • Rodents. Rodents present the biggest problem in food plants due to the quick accumulation of excrement, which contaminate goods and harbor bacteria such as Salmonella. In addition to the health risks they pose, rats and mice also can cause costly damage by gnawing through drywall, wood, insulation, plumbing lines, and even electrical wiring that can lead to short circuits or electrical fires.
  • Flies. The common house fly breeds in moist or decaying garbage or organic matter and has been found to carry more than 100 kinds of disease-causing germs, including Salmonella and Listeria.
  • Cockroaches. Cockroaches are known to spread at least 33 different kinds of bacteria, six parasitic worms, and at least seven other kinds of human pathogens by picking up germs and debris on their legs and bodies while crawling through sewage and debris.
  • Stored Product Pests. Indian meal moths, flour beetles, and weevils can contaminate goods by leaving body parts and cast skins inside food products or by being accidentally ground up and swept into food products in the manufacturing process. Live bugs also are able to infest flour, grains, and cereals.

When faced with budgetary decisions, food manufacturing and storage facilities may overlook the critical importance of pest control in favor of decisions regarding day-to-day operations. By partnering with a licensed pest control professional, however, facility managers are able to take pest control efforts into their own hands, mitigating potential issues before they arise. Here are some helpful tips for locating the right professional pest control service for your facility:

  • Look for qualified and licensed pest control professionals and companies that are members of national, state, or local pest management associations. (NPMA’s website includes listings of local, licensed professionals.)
  • Ask friends and neighbors to recommend a licensed pest control professional that they have used successfully.
  • Ask to see proper licensing and credentials from the pest management professional who comes to solve your pest problem.
  • Don’t rush a decision. Since you are paying for professional pest control advice, as well as skillful treatment, look for someone whose judgment you can trust.
  • Before signing a contract, be sure to fully understand the pest species, the extent of the infestation, and the work necessary to solve the problem.
  • If a guarantee is given, know what it covers; how long it lasts; what you must do to keep it in force; and what kind of continued professional pest control, prevention, and management are necessary.
  • Buy value, not price. Do not make a purchasing decision based solely on the lowest cost.

While reactive pest control efforts are necessary in the event of an infestation, proactive pest control is key to preventing an infestation before it has time to get out of hand. By learning the types of pests that typically plague food processing and packaging facilities, the various hazards they pose, and what to look for when enlisting the expertise of a licensed pest control professional, managers will be better equipped to protect their facilities and their customers.


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