The potential impact on business from a food pest infestation can be wide-ranging, resulting in lost revenue, lost customers, claims for loss and penalties, and even prosecution if non-compliance of applicable laws is involved. Worse yet, pest infestation can easily lead to loss of trust from customers and consumers, undermining your organization’s hard-earned reputation.
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There are numerous pests that prefer to make their homes inside storage containers, grain silos, and warehouses, costing businesses millions in lost revenue each year. They contaminate raw materials and finished products in various ways, including through feces, webs, and cast skins, causing costly damage and process disruption and delays. Stored product insects (SPIs) (beetles, moths, weevils, and mites) can infest foods such as flour, rice, dried fruit, nuts, barley, and more.
Consequences of Pest Infestations
In order to gain insight into the challenges and issues pest infestation can present in food manufacturing and other industries, Rentokil commissioned independent research agency Opinion Matters and the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR). This research found that in 2014 alone, disruptions caused by pest infestations resulted in $9.6 billion in operating costs in the countries surveyed. Moreover, 84 percent of U.S. businesses reported a net impact on revenue due to pest infestation across a five-year period. Statistics like these demonstrate the serious impact pest infestations can have on businesses of all kinds.
However, the potential impact was not limited to financial loss alone, particularly for food-related businesses. The CEBR research found that food manufacturers and processors reported pest-related costs associated with contamination of raw materials leading to replacement costs (28 percent) and an erosion of staff morale (30 percent). If the pest problem is not discovered in finished goods until arrival at the customer’s location, negative impacts such as penalties, lost revenue, and reputation will be at their highest. Even before that point, if pests are discovered during production, there can be a loss of productivity due to machine downtime, which can lead to missed fulfillment dates, potential contract losses, and financial penalties. The CEBR research cited that 41 percent of non-public facing core-food firms experienced business disruption from infestations that lasted the same amount of time as the infestation itself.
Common signs of SPIs include:
- Live or dead insects in stored products, larvae, pupae, or silken webbing on food storage bins on shelves;
- Larvae or webbing on the outside of packets or bags;
- Larvae, pupae, or silken webbing in food harborages in cracks and crevices around shelves or on machinery, in food spillages, or on beams or windowsills; and
- Indications of the pests in insect traps or rodent stations.
Denying access to your premises is the first line of defense against stored food pests. This means inspecting incoming products, high standards of hygiene, and sanitation need to be maintained at all times throughout the year particularly in the warmer months when the temperature can expedite the development of SPI infestations.
Recommended prevention includes the following practices.
Temperature control. Stored product beetles and moths development time can be affected by temperature. Temperature above 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit or below 77 degrees Fahrenheit will slow population growth. Egg and pupa are less affected by relative humidity than larval stage. Development time for egg and pupa is affected by relative humidity as low as 8 to 12 percent.
High hygiene standards. Keeping a facility clean is essential to pest prevention. All excess food materials from spillages should be promptly cleaned as well as dust accumulation on facility surfaces, machinery, equipment, storage locations, and transport vehicles. All stock and food materials should be stored off the floor and away from the walls to facilitate cleaning and inspections. Add these areas to your Master Sanitation Schedule.