In October 2023, Orkin released its annual “Top 50 Rattiest Cities List” and, while many might assume that New York City would be No. 1 on this list, it was in fact the Windy City that stole the least-coveted spot for the eighth consecutive year.
With the drastic increase in rodent sightings during the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers and businesses alike have been concerned about their health and safety. For food manufacturers and distributors, the increase in rodent activity isn’t something that should be ignored.
While gradually resuming pre-pandemic activities has helped to reduce the number of public rodent sightings, the pests’ threat to public health hasn’t decreased. In fact, these filthy pests can spread dozens of harmful diseases—directly and indirectly—such as hepatitis E, leptospirosis, and hantavirus, in addition to contaminating food products and causing structural damage in buildings.
Left unaddressed, rodent sightings within a commercial facility can lead to ongoing infestations and, eventually, failed inspections and stalled operations—costly blows to your bottom line. Knowing how to spot rodent activity is essential in stopping them early. If you notice any of the following signs around your food facility, you might have a rodent problem:
- Capsule-like droppings;
- Grease marks along skirting boards, walls, and tight spaces;
- Gnaw marks on walls, wires, and other materials; and
- Nests in dark areas such as crawl spaces, roofing, and garbage dumps.
So, how does a food manufacturing and handling facility protect itself against rats? By implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) program.
Most food-handling businesses likely have heard about IPM programs, especially if they are regularly audited by third-party food quality and safety auditors or subject to frequent regulatory inspectors. These programs are implemented by qualified pest control technicians in collaboration with a business’s food safety and quality assurance team to help deter pest activity and prevent infestations. IPM programs focus on preventive techniques such as exclusion, sanitation, and maintenance to keep pests where they belong—outside of your food facility. When it comes to rodent control, exclusion is particularly important for facility managers.
Because food processing facilities receive and send shipments daily, it’s easy for rats and other rodents to slip into transportation vehicles, packaged goods and, eventually, your building. Not only does this jeopardize your business’s products and your reputation, but employee health is also at risk. Exclusion helps keep rodents outdoors by making sure potential entry points are quickly sealed and any maintenance work is completed in a timely manner. While each business’s exclusion plan will vary based on local pest pressures, climate, and location, the majority of pest control technicians will begin with a comprehensive facility inspection prior to implementing specific tactics. These tactics can include sealing cracks and crevices that rats can slip through, installing weatherstripping, and performing door sweeps.
Another preventive measure you can add to a plan is remote pest monitoring. When you’re running a round-the-clock operation like most food-handling facilities do, your employees might not have time to monitor for pests while also performing their production responsibilities. Remote pest monitoring can help flag pest issues for you to address with your pest control provider before a bigger problem arises. There are a variety of devices that can be used during remote monitoring, depending on your facility’s specific needs and structure, but the results are primarily the same: You’ll be able to track pest activity from any location and involve your pest control provider when needed to identify pest activity trends.
Remote pest monitoring is especially beneficial in automated food manufacturing and processing facilities that see little human activity, reducing the amount of time employees spend spotting pest issues in real time.