The arrival of spring can send us into a cleaning frenzy. During spring cleaning, we assess trouble spots in our homes, remove clutter, and sanitize thoroughly. The same concept should apply in your food processing facility, where cleanliness standards aren’t just good practice—they’re required.
While sanitation-related activities must be ongoing, this is the perfect time to re-evaluate your facility’s sanitation and deep-cleaning practices. Pests that may have remained hidden in the winter will surely reveal themselves as the seasons change. Although it’s nearly impossible to keep a large food processing facility completely clean all the time, thorough sanitation is key to preventing pest problems.
Pest management should be top priority year round in food processing facilities, which are particularly sensitive to pest infestations. Your facility hosts several attractants that lure pests in and encourage them to stay. Heat and odor that emanate from your plant draw pests inside. Frequent deliveries from manufacturers require doors and loading bays to stay open for long periods of time, inviting pests to enter.
Various food sources readily available in your facility, such as spillage, finished product, and food left in employee break rooms, can encourage pests. Once pests move inside your building, they are drawn to cracks or crevices, equipment voids, and other difficult-to-clean locations where infestations can easily go unnoticed, making stringent cleaning practices important for your facility.
Educate your staff on pest “hot spots” to look for. Monitor places such as the plant floor, ingredient storage, and waste zones for signs of an infestation.
The appearance of pests such as cockroaches, ants, rodents, and stored product pests may indicate a larger, more costly problem, because infestations can affect your bottom line and the quality of your product. The USDA estimates that rodents cause hundreds of billions of dollars a year in damage and destruction worldwide, and researchers have determined that insect and rodent pests can carry disease-causing organisms like hantavirus, E. coli, and Salmonella. Although these pests may not be in your facility now, the change of seasons can prompt their arrival.
In order to effectively combat pests specific to your facility, you must utilize a complete integrated pest management program. This environmentally friendly process incorporates non-chemical techniques such as sanitation and facility maintenance in order to prevent pest activity. An IPM program is only effective when conducted with the cooperation and assistance of all stakeholders. You must educate your entire staff on the importance of following proper sanitation practices inside and outside of your facility. The following are sanitation best practices that you can implement with your staff to ensure pests stay out.
Inside Your Facility
Educate your staff on pest “hot spots” to look for. Monitor places such as the plant floor, ingredient storage, and waste zones for signs of an infestation. If you find droppings, gnaw marks, or greasy markings along walls, work with your pest management professional to verify and identify the pest activity, and use non-chemical treatments to manage any infestation.
Practice good cleaning habits in common areas such as the break room and locker facilities. Require employees to keep all food in sealed containers—preferably in the refrigerator—and wipe countertops free of crumbs. Disinfect tables and other surfaces that may have lingering debris. Sweep and mop floors regularly, and clean up any spills immediately. If employees have access to lockers, these will require frequent attention. Lockers should be completely cleaned out three to four times per year. Also, employees should be discouraged from keeping food items in lockers. Be aware that infestations found in production areas are often traced to employee common areas.