As a result of recent food recalls, the government and the American public are paying more attention to food safety. Consumers can even receive e-mail notifications of recall updates through a service offered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
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Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs remain the best defense against food contaminants. While GMPs include a number of efforts to eliminate potential hazards to food safety, sanitation continues to offer critical protection against impurities. Not only can effective sanitation remove pathogens and filth, but it can also play an integral role in the prevention of pests. Rodents, cockroaches, flies, and other pests threaten food safety by carrying a number of dangerous bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella, which they can introduce into food. These pests can also jeopardize food safety if they or their droppings infiltrate the supply.
As part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, sanitation efforts target and eliminate the elements in food manufacturing facilities that attract pests, including the availability of food, water, and shelter sources, as well as breeding sites. As a result, the facility appears less attractive to pests and encourages them to look elsewhere for a home.
A good sanitation program will pay particular attention to potential pest “hot spots”: areas most conducive to pest infestation. As a general rule, most hot spots offer pests food and water, which they need for survival. In food manufacturing facilities, common hot spots include the plant floor, storage and employee areas, and waste disposal zones. Review your facility’s hot spots regularly with your pest management professional, and ensure that your sanitation program includes specific steps to target pests in these areas.
Hot Spot 1: The Plant Floor
Many facilities operate 24 hours a day, giving pests the opportunity to eat to their hearts’ content if they can access spills, food residue, and moisture on or under plant equipment. Because most facilities position equipment all around the plant, the sheer size of the plant floor can pose a challenge to sanitation efforts.
Clean spills regularly during operating hours. Most pests won’t venture unseen onto the plant floor while employees work. But if left untouched, spills can create hard-to-remove residue. Food spills can also seep into small cracks in the facility floor, providing sustenance for ants or other pests living under the foundation.
Thoroughly clean all equipment, particularly in joints and around nuts and bolts; these can easily be overlooked.
Monitor for moisture that can accumulate under machinery from leaks or condensation. Most pests do not need much water to survive. In fact, mice can glean enough moisture for survival from the food they eat. Work with a maintenance professional to complete repairs.
Use an organic cleaner in floor drains. Food debris, moisture, and warmth in drains offer an ideal breeding spot for fruit and drain flies.
Hot Spot 2: Storage Areas
In addition to providing food sources, storage areas can supply great hiding spots for pests that go under or behind shelving or near boxes.
Inspect all shipments as they arrive, and monitor regularly for signs of damage. Rotate products on a first in-first out (FIFO) schedule, and immediately remove any damaged, spoiled, or infested products. If packages tear or rip, dispose of those products or seal them in containers.
Clean under and behind shelving to eliminate spilled ingredients. Store all products on wire-back shelving that is off the floor and away from the wall.
Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to clean debris from cracks and crevices in walls. Vacuuming can also remove pests hiding in these areas.