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From: Food Quality & Safety magazine, February/March 2013

Integrated Pest Management for Maximum Food Processing Facility Protection

by Zia Siddiqi

When it comes to keeping a positive bottom line and rock-solid reputation for your products, it’s important to keep your facility in tip-top shape. Every food processing facility must be audit ready, down to the last detail, at all times.

One of the keys to readiness is pest management. Without an effective pest management program in place, insects and rodents can infiltrate your facility, which can lead to food contamination, product recalls, or severe health threats. To ensure that pests don’t plague your facility, work with your pest management professional to establish a custom integrated pest management program. A proactive approach to pest management, IPM places a heavy emphasis on facility maintenance and sanitation, using chemical treatments only as a last resort. Additional components of IPM programs at food manufacturing plants include sanitary design, documentation, ongoing monitoring, and staff training.

While no two facilities are ever alike, pests tend to target certain areas. Take a look around your facility and find these “hot spots,” and then work with your pest management provider to develop a plan that will keep your facility secure.

Follow these IPM procedures to help prevent pest problems:

Entrances

The entrances to your facility are the front lines of your battle against pests. With the right defenses, though, you can help end the battle before pests take the fight inside.

First, be sure to add door sweeps and use weather stripping to minimize gaps around doors and windows. If possible, install automatic doors to ensure that entrances stay closed as much as possible.

You can also work with an HVAC professional to blow pests out the door by making sure positive air pressure is maintained whenever a door is open, keeping the air flowing outside. To test for positive airflow, hold a piece of paper in a doorway and see which way it blows—if it blows toward the exits, you’re in good shape. You can also create an air curtain that pests can’t penetrate by mounting fans vertically on either side of a doorway.

Exterior lighting makes a difference as well. Consider installing sodium-vapor lights instead of fluorescent bulbs next to entryways to make the area less appealing to flying insects. You can also draw flying pests away from your building by adding mercury-vapor lighting fixtures at least 100 feet from your facility. If you set those lighting fixtures to turn on 10 to 15 minutes before dusk, you can attract night flying pests away.

Receiving and Storage

Loading docks are prime pest targets at food processing facilities, because they tend to be the most accessible entrances. Pests can find their way inside your facility through receiving doors and, at times, hitch a ride in on shipments.

To limit your risk, make sure that exterior receiving doors seal tightly when closed, because it doesn’t take pests much room to sneak through. Rats only need an opening the size of a quarter, mice a dime, and cockroaches a fraction of an inch.

Inspect all shipments for signs of pests, such as damaged packaging. Keep your receiving areas clean, well lit, and free of unnecessary stockpiles; pests see clutter as a perfect hiding place. Containers with ingredients, or even dry goods, should remain closed with airtight lids and stored at least six inches off the floor and 18 inches away from walls.

Dispose of empty and unused cardboard boxes as quickly as possible. Cockroaches and other crawling pests can hide within the ridges of boxes, and the glue can serve as a food source for roaches.

hot spots
Look around your facility and find ‘hot spots’ and then work with your pest management provider to develop a plan that will keep your facility secure.

Outside

While the weather may be cold right now, spring is right around the corner. Before you decide on any landscaping changes, think about the pests you may attract. Cut back grassy areas, and avoid using large amounts of mulch, which provides hiding spots that allow pests to nest and multiply before finding a way inside your building. No plants or shrubs should touch your building, giving crawling pests a way to get in. If possible, add a two-foot gravel strip between your bushes and your walls to deter rodents that use shrubbery to cover their movements around your building.

Keep an eye on your parking lot and sidewalks, too, and remove any remnants of trash or standing water that can attract pests to the area. Clean your dumpsters on a regular basis, and prevent trash and clutter buildup around them to deter rodents and insects from making their homes nearby.

Survey the exterior of your building, looking for cracks and imperfections. Seal any cracks in your building’s windows, ceilings, floors, and exterior walls with weather-resistant sealant. Add copper mesh around pipes and drains before sealing to prevent rodents from gnawing through the seal. Use window screens and additional weather stripping as protective barriers to prevent smaller pests like ants from crawling inside.

Inside

Just like the exterior, you will want to search out and caulk any cracks and crevices around your wall and ceiling junctures, wall and floor junctures, and in corners inside your facility.

Break rooms, offices, or locker rooms used by employees can offer a safe haven for pests, providing food, water, and shelter. Inform your staff of your new IPM measures to make sure they are doing their part to keep these areas clean and sanitary.

Empty trash cans often, and clean up any spills immediately. Additionally, you’ll want to set up a routine sanitation schedule to clean liquid off of equipment and floors. You can remove greasy buildup with an organic cleaner that has a minimal impact on the environment.

Machinery Areas

Even the best sanitation efforts can be ineffective in machinery rooms where the equipment is positioned so that components in need of cleaning are hidden or inaccessible. For example, equipment is sometimes placed too close together or pushed against the walls. This type of positioning can lead to trapped food and microorganism growth that you may not even notice.

To optimize the sanitation and cleaning of your equipment and machinery, avoid squeezing equipment into tight areas. The best floor plans have machinery in wide open spaces, easily accessible from all sides.

Remember, the sanitation team needs easy access to areas above, beneath, and along the sides of equipment. If they can’t reach these spots, consider moving your equipment to a larger space.

When purchasing machinery, opt for self-draining equipment, which will help prevent the growth of hazardous bacteria. If your equipment is not self-draining, be sure to clean it thoroughly, inside and out, on a regular basis. Though the equipment may look clean from the outside, pests like cockroaches may be attracted to the product and liquids left inside. In addition, minimize any liquid accumulation to keep all areas within the facility dry and prevent damage to your products.

Loading docks are prime pest targets at food processing facilities, because they tend to be the most accessible entrances. Pests can find their way inside your facility through receiving doors and, at times, hitch a ride in on shipments.

Treatments

If a pest problem inside your facility does require treatment, don’t apply chemicals immediately; there are several alternatives you can use to control pests without the worry of toxins.

Non-chemical strategies such as sticky boards can be used to monitor for and catch crawling pests in your facility. Fly lights of all shapes and sizes can be installed near entrances to food processing or other sensitive areas. In some cases, you can also use pests’ own biology against them. Pheromone traps incorporate a synthetically reproduced version of natural pest pheromones, which offer another way to monitor pests by luring them into a trap. Insect growth regulators employ man-made hormones to stunt insect growth and prevent reproduction and population growth without posing any threat or health hazards to people.

Even if you’ve exhausted all other options and are left with chemical treatments, you can target pests with precise, location-suitable treatment rather than a general application throughout your facility. Non-volatile gel baits can be applied directly to cracks and crevices, where pests feed on them and take them back to the colony. Unlike sprays, gel formulations will not become airborne, so they can’t be inhaled or contaminate sterile surfaces. Bait pucks and containerized baits can be used in damp, dark areas.

As always, work with your staff on all of these strategies to make sure that they play an active role in pest management; your service provider should also be able to provide training.

Work with the provider to create a documenting system. This is important for each food safety audit, so keep a logbook on site that track data such as visits from your pest management professional, pest sightings, types of traps used, and more.

Follow these IPM guidelines, and you can see your audit scores—and even your bottom line—improve.


Dr. Zia Siddiqi is director of quality systems for Orkin. A board-certified entomologist with more than 30 years in the industry, Dr. Siddiqi is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. For more information, e-mail zsiddiqi@orkin.com or visit www.orkincommercial.com.

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