The one phrase you’ll never hear an experienced pest management professional utter is, “Now, I’ve seen it all.” Nothing can be further from the truth when it comes to eliminating pests from food processing, storage, and distribution facilities.
Why is that phrase so far-fetched? It’s simple: pests. Rodents, cockroaches, flies, and stored product pests are animals and their behavior can be unpredictable. When you add the human element to the mix, you need to be prepared for anything when it comes to pests.
An experienced pest management technician will see evidence of pests in areas of a food processing facility that no one ever thought possible, or uncover structural, cultural, or sanitary conditions that no one would think could contribute to a pest infestation.
The bottom line is that, when it comes to designing, implementing, and measuring the effectiveness of a pest management program, nothing is off the table. Anything is possible, so expect the unexpected.
Be Awake to All Possibilities
It may sound like a daunting task to prepare your facility for every possible pest, and the reality is, that it isn’t possible. No QA manager, plant sanitarian, or facility manager can think of everything when it comes to pests.
That’s why developing strong partnerships with your pest management service provider and outside vendors (e.g., cleaning crews, transportation companies, etc.) is essential to safeguarding your facility, products, employees, and customers from pests and the harmful bacteria they can transfer to food products.
A collaborative and proactive approach to establishing consistent cleaning, sanitation, inventory management, product and ingredient inspection, and maintenance protocols is the first step toward effective pest management. Learning from experiences, both good and bad, when it comes to pest prevention and management is a critical part of the process. With these protocols in place, the chances of coming across an unwelcomed pest surprise are mitigated, but never eliminated.
Here is a collection of real-world tales that illustrate the point that effective pest management involves expecting the unexpected, being proactive and innovative, and leveraging all your intellectual and technical assets to arrive at a solution.
Tale No. 1: Digging Deep to Solve a Phorid Fly Infestation
A technician was having a problem getting an intense phorid fly infestation under control at a new food plant. The problem had been going on for a few months and the client was getting impatient.
The technician and technical staff met with the plant’s management team to explain the biology of the species and point out that the flies are usually associated with compromised drains, but management did not want to listen. They wanted a bioremediation treatment performed, pesticide injections in the drains, and weekly fogging treatments to eliminate the flies.
Even though it was explained that these approaches would only provide short-term relief, the technician did what was asked. The plant’s maintenance staff even filled the facility’s hollow block walls with foam and called another pest control company to drill into the slab floor and perform a termite treatment, both of which did not solve the problem.
The client finally followed the original recommendation and had the drains scoped by a plumber. It was discovered that the drainpipes were not connected, and water was accumulating underneath the building slab, providing ideal conditions for a fly infestation.
The Takeaway: When it comes to pests and drains, have a plumber scope the drains to see what’s really going on down there. Yes, drain repairs can be costly, but what’s the price of a product recall or a failed audit? If the client had followed the initial recommendation, the problem would have been solved much faster and at a lower cost.
Tale No. 2: That Sucks—Fungus Gnats in a Food Plant
A production factory was experiencing an intense fungus gnat infestation in its employee break room. The infestation was so severe that it started to migrate to the plant’s production area where it potentially could contaminate product.