You can start with your audit scores and reputation. Third-party audits are a serious matter for food processing facilities. Just one low score can cause your customers to lose trust in your business—and if those customers pull their support, you could see a major impact on your bottom line.
Taking the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into account, food processing facilities have every reason to strengthen their pest control program and documentation efforts to not only follow and implement a risk-based prevention program to protect their product and consumer base, but also be audit-ready at any time. Success on your third-party audit hinges on documentation, and the pest management portion can make all the difference in your score—it accounts for up to 20 percent.
Then there are the pests themselves.
Cockroaches and ants can pick up and transfer harmful bacteria. Flies can spread disease-causing organisms everywhere they land—and they land frequently, leaving their traces in an abundance of places.
Then there are rodents, which can also cause serious health problems. According to the CDC, rats and mice are known to spread bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli, as well as more than 35 diseases worldwide, such as hantavirus.
From its impact on audit scores to its role in abating health concerns and to brand protection, pest control should be a priority for any food processing facility. An ongoing, comprehensive, and well-documented Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, which focuses on risk-based preventive strategies like sanitation and facility maintenance to help prevent pest activity, is ideal for food processing facilities.
Picking the Right Partner
With all this in mind, it’s important to find the right, licensed pest management professional who will partner with you and your staff to implement a customized IPM program for your facility and help keep pest problems away. But the key word here is “partnership.”
When starting your search for a pest management partner, be sure to ask about IPM. IPM is the preferred pest management practice of NSF International’s food safety audits and helps meet and exceed the requirements of industry auditors. One-size-fits-all pest management solutions are simply not effective, so look for a provider who can tailor an IPM program specifically to your facility and your needs.
The following guidelines can help you search for a pest management partner that stands out from the crowd.
Start your search with your peers. If you’re looking for pest management recommendations, start by talking to your industry colleagues. If your facility is part of a larger network, you may also consider talking with other managers about their pest management providers and their results.
Insist on an inspection before you sign. Once you have a list of providers to check out, it’s time to see how they treat your facility—don’t choose a provider sight unseen. Your partnership with a potential pest management provider should start with a full inspection and assessment of your facility.
Remember, IPM programs are customizable to specific facilities. A thorough inspection will help the potential provider determine what type of services you need in yours.
Get the details in writing. FSMA requires food processing facilities to develop and execute written risk-based preventive food safety plans that detail likely hazards, corrective actions, and results. With this in mind, your pest management professional should thoroughly document any service visits and corrective actions.
You want a provider who not only documents his or her every move but also uses the documented information to determine pest trends and aid in decisions about how to best manage pest activity going forward. These records should be kept onsite for any surprise audits.