Picture this: A dad hands his daughter a box of morning cereal, which she rips opens in excitement. While grabbing the toy out of the box, she drops it and screams, spilling cereal all over the floor—there are bugs in the cereal!
It’s easy to see how pest problems in a food processing facility can turn into a big problem. Pests can directly hurt your bottom line by contaminating products or equipment, causing you to either throw out and/or replace costly shipments. If products make it all the way to the consumer with pests, it could have a devastating impact on your brand, especially with today’s social media connectedness.
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Instead of waiting for pest issues to occur, plan ahead. The Food Safety Modernization Act mandates a proactive approach to food safety, so sitting back and waiting for issues to occur is no longer an option. Aside from the legal implications, being proactive will help you protect your facility and bottom line from pests. In today’s globalized world, food processing facilities now have to pay attention to their supply chain too.
The Basics of Pest Control
Every food business should have an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to mitigate the risk of pest issues. These programs—which emphasize customized, proactive, integrated solutions whenever possible—require a strong partnership between the facility manager, employees, and the pest management professional to implement and continue to improve over time. Traceability is also an integral part of a strong IPM program, as it can help prevent pests internally and externally and ensure pest issues are resolved promptly.
Every IPM program will have some form of documentation to record pest issues, and many pest management companies offer extensive data tracking to see how pest populations are trending over time to identify areas for improvement. Careful documentation is crucial for demonstrating compliance to an auditor, and it can help trace pest issues back to the source. Talk to partners throughout the supply chain to establish documentation protocols as well, since determining the source of an infestation is an important first step in resolving a pest problem. Make it a point to notify supply chain partners when pest issues are traced back to them, as they might not be aware of these issues at their own facility.
Traceability is a big part of food safety, especially as more global supply chains are formed, but it can be confusing to determine which documents are most important to maintain to create visibility and be prepared for an audit. The following documents are a great place to start.
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Food safety plan. The food safety plan is the most important piece of documentation. Because this is a larger, overarching document, focus on the pest management portion and what can be done to update and improve it for now. While a food safety plan should cover all aspects of the facility and products, for pest management specifically the plan should include details about all activities done to proactively ensure products are protected from pests. Make sure to incorporate all potential hazards, preventive controls, and corrective actions implemented to reduce risk. It’s also important to include monitoring and verification procedures. If possible, include information about suppliers and their programs. A crucial part of ensuring pest issues are traceable is to show that incoming and outgoing shipments are being inspected, as this will help catch pest issues before they get further down the supply chain.
List of service changes. Every IPM program needs to adapt and change as pest pressure does. No two facilities are the same, and pest pressure can shift from year to year depending on a variety of external factors, like nearby construction driving rodents from their homes. Anytime changes are made to the program, note how and why the changes have been made. At a minimum, review the plan at least once per year.