Railroad sidings are prime areas for food spillage that can attract rodents and birds.
Get Paid For Your Thoughts!
- Wiley (Food Quality & Safety’s publisher) is offering $200 to qualified food scientists who participate in research interviews about challenges facing the food industry.
Take the survey >
Weed control around plants and rail lines will eliminate potential pest harborage areas. Mow grass regularly, trim trees and bushes, choose plantings correctly (non-fruit bearing trees and bushes), and leave a 2-ft.-wide rock barrier around the exterior to reduce rodent burrowing.
Proper drainage is essential to eliminating fly, termite, and mosquito harborage areas. Make sure drains in the parking lot and loading dock are clear, irrigation pipes and sprinkler heads are not leaking, and that gutters and downspouts drain away from the building.
Garbage and recycling dumpsters need to be placed on a concrete pad at least 100 feet away from a structure. The pad and the bin need to be cleaned regularly—“dumpster juice” is very attractive to flies, rodents, and stinging insects—and lids are a must. Staff members should not place bags around the bin when it is filled. Facility managers need to request more frequent trash pickups if this is a frequent occurrence.
Equipment, including pallets, pipes, storage racks, etc., needs to be stored away from loading dock doors and entrances, and all items need to be cleaned before they are brought back inside.
Good sanitation is achieved when everyone is working from the same playbook, and proper resources are allocated to training and equipment (e.g., mobile cleaning stations). Good sanitation practices must be part of a plant’s culture, and the staff should be incentivized to make it a priority. For example, consider rewards for those who complete 100 percent of the master sanitation tasks, or give rights and authority to employees for identifying unsanitary practices. Staff can also determine specific metrics to track progress, or attend sanitation seminars to find out new trends and products.
A strong sanitation program complements a good food and worker safety program. Everyone has a stake in the process, and everyone wins when it is done well.
Sanitation Horror Stories
Every pest management professional has walked into a food industry facility and stopped in their tracks due to poor sanitation practices—some intentional, some not.
Below are a few examples of situations where poor sanitation practices undermined even the best pest management programs.
The Case of the Spilled Soda. A soda manufacturer was experiencing an issue with fruit flies and could not figure out why. Upon arrival at the plant, it was noted there were no access aisles against walls to conduct inspections and cleaning (an 18- to 24-in. space is recommended). Pallets were haphazardly pushed up against walls and sugary liquid spillage accumulated beneath the pallets, providing fruit flies a prime breeding location.
Lesson Learned: Good sanitation practices include giving your maintenance and cleaning crews access to the areas that need cleaning.
A Cheesy Situation. During a routine inspection at a cheese manufacturing facility, a technician checked the floor drains in the processing area. The technician noticed the P-trap had fallen off the drain and was lying on rock bed underneath the cement slab. The drain was not connected to the sewer line, and cheese particles and water were falling unabated to the ground under the slab creating conditions conducive for cockroaches and phorid flies.
Lesson Learned: Frequent inspections are a must to stay on top of sanitation-related issues—if the technician had not taken the time to shine a flashlight down the drain, the buildup would have continued and the pest issue metastasized throughout the plant.
River Rats. Norway rats were gaining access to a large food storage and distribution facility located near a river in a major metropolitan area. In addition to the river, there were abandoned buildings, overgrown lots, and the facility stored pallets and located its dumpster right next to the building. This all added up to a facility with severe rodent pressure. It was a 24/7 facility, so doors were left open around the clock and an automatic door motion detector was installed to help keep doors closed when not in use. However, one of the workers put a piece of tape over the door’s eyelet to stop it from closing, giving the rats easy access. Once inside, the rats left droppings and urine, and chewed through shrink-wrapped pallets to eat and spoil the food that was awaiting shipment to hungry consumers.
Lesson Learned: Part of a good sanitation protocol is training employees on what not to do to allow easy pest access to a facility: leaving doors open, storing pallets next to the building, and placing a dumpster close to a door.—S.M.