Food processing facilities provide various environments in which pests can enter, hide, and thrive. Pest survival and their ability to populate an environment is largely based on the availability of three things: food, water, and shelter. They’re resilient in their search, which is why a well-maintained line of defense is crucial to keep pests from threatening the quality and safety of the food products you provide.
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Explore This IssueFebruary/March 2020
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No two food manufacturing facilities are alike. Size, layout, and surrounding environmental factors will all affect your specific pest management needs. However, every facility will face pest pressures in some way or another. A pest management professional can help you implement an integrated pest management (IPM) plan to expose the opportunities for pest intruders and put a stop to them.
An IPM program will assess the risk areas within your facility and establish tactics to proactively control the environment and limit pest attractants. Top pest attractants include spills, moisture, and raw ingredients. Pests are particularly fond of dried food products—from cereal to preserved meats—and they’re capable of causing them major damage.
As part of an overall plan, pest management tactics may include a combination of exclusion, facility maintenance, and sanitation practices. From there, ongoing monitoring and inspections will help evaluate the strength of your IPM program and allow you to make changes swiftly if needed.
While a pest management professional is likely helping you with many aspects of your program, there are certain tasks at your site that you and your employees can do to stave off pests.
Pest Control in Outdoor Areas
First, let’s focus on your outdoor maintenance and sanitation efforts. What happens right outside your facility on the surrounding property is critical to creating an effective IPM plan. Keeping outdoor areas maintained makes them less attractive to pests, making it less likely that they’ll show up on your doorstep.
- The roof is a common entry point for birds, roof rats, and even insects. Have a professional inspect the roof to ensure no repairs are needed. As an added layer of precaution, it’s best to trim back tree branches from touching or hanging over the roof. Don’t forget to have roof HVAC units checked to ensure filters are properly installed and that they aren’t pulling in insects.
- Close dock doors between shipments and install vinyl strip doors as added barriers when doors must be open.
- If possible, move outside lighting away from the building. Having a light directly over a personnel door can attract night-flying insects and provide them access every time the doors are opened. Moving lights off the building (while still providing a safe amount of indirect light) will minimize the amount of insects that are directly around the building.
- Dumpsters, trash cans, and other waste disposal areas quickly can become havens for pests if not maintained properly. These areas should be part of a stringent sanitation routine ensuring that dumpsters are emptied regularly (never overflowing or left open). They should also be placed as far away from buildings as possible to help prevent ants, flies, and cockroaches from accumulating and looking for an even better meal inside the facility. Don’t forget to manage any trash bins outside of employee areas as well.
- Keep in mind that fruit-bearing trees, sweet-smelling flowers, nuts, and seeds are all enticing for pests such as birds and rodents. These trees and plants provide food and potential nesting sites. Create a perimeter of reinforcement: Trim back branches and plants at least 3 feet from around your facility. You’ll also want to clean up and remove fallen branches or dead trees, as these are a prime target for termites.
- Eliminating trash and standing water that can accumulate in parking lots or low spots is critical.
- Install air curtains at entrances and establish positive air pressure to push pests toward an exit instead of pulling them in.
Pest Control in Indoor Areas
There are also some facility maintenance tactics you can use inside your structure.
- Equip floor drains with a removable secondary strainer to help prevent pest entry through drainpipes.
- Moisture within your facility can become an issue and lead to small fly infestation, mold and mold-feeding insects, and even structural damage. Look for warning signs such as slow-moving drains, mildew, and peeling paint, and quickly remedy the moisture source.
After a thorough inspection of both your outside and inside areas, a focus on facility maintenance is key in establishing an IPM program. Next, and just as important, is sanitation, a crucial factor that will set you up for long-term success.