The presence of pests in food production and preparation areas has always been unacceptable. Ignoring it could be a high-risk threat because it can cause contamination and damage raw materials in various ways. Besides affecting stocks, a pest infestation may also result in loss of revenue, customers’ trust, fines, and even prosecution. Anurag Mishra explains various aspects of the Pest Control Program in this two-part series.
Table of Contents
What is Pest – Any insect which destructs/ attack food, crop or livestock is considered a pest? If not controlled then it may result in infestation to the Food / Corp during processing, transportation, and storage. In modern food processing industries infestation considered to be one of the biggest profit eaters. In recent years there many examples where the infestation has resulted to recall, significant sales loss, and in the end damaging the brand image. A very recent example ( in 2018 ) of a recall due to infestation reported in Canada where world-famous brand IKEA recalled Ikea brand Marshmallow candy “GODIS PÅSKKYCKLING” because of possible contamination from a mice infestation at the manufacturing plant.
Another example of a recall due to infestation reported by Aytac Foods, where organization recalled its Aycan Risotto Rice and Aycan Brown Rice due to possible insect (weevil) infestation which made these products unsafe to eat.
Other than above there are many cases where food businesses had a huge dent on its brand image due to infestation and that’s why Pest Control is now one of the most prerequisite programs for any type of food processing and storage of food items.
Before pest control, we all need to understand a few facts about the pest and its behavior. Common pests associated with food processing industries are flies, ants rodent, cockroaches, birds, spiders, mosquitoes, geckos and stored insect pests.
Some interesting facts about these pests are:
Cockroaches – Omnivorous in nature, prefer cool and dark places, a single pair can reproduce up to 300000 cockroaches in 12 months.
Ants – Move in groups, vary is sizes.
Rodents – May enter the facility by a very tiny gap, carrier of many pathogens, very clever.
Flies – Categorized in the fruit fly, drain fly, flesh fly, house fly etc., breed on any decaying organic matter, carrier of pathogens causing Cholera, Typhoid etc.
Geckos ( House Lizard ) – Great climber and can contaminate food in many ways like droppings etc.
Factors leading to pest activities
Food material attracts pest due to its odor, therefore, manufacturers/distributor of such categories must focus additionally on pest control front. There are several factors that may lead to pest activities in the facility. They are ( but not limited to ) :
Location and Structural Features of Facility:
If the facility is situated nearby forest, agricultural land etc. then there are high chances of pest activities nearby and failing any of the 4 Ds ( mentioned below ) may lead to pest activity inside. So while selecting the location, these factors must be considered. Other than location, a facility must also be designed in such a way so that pest entry is minimized.
Poor Sanitation within and around the facility:
If sanitation practices are poor inside the facility (like drain cleaning, air handling unit cleaning etc.) then it may lead to the conditions which favor pest to grow.
Specifically to manufacturing facilities incoming raw/packaging / other material may bring some uninvited guests to the facility so it is highly recommended to inspect the incoming materials for any pest activity before taking inside the facility.
Due to design, some equipment may provide places for pests to grow so equipment selection must be done while considering “easy to clean” factor.
Visitors and Employee:
One of the key carriers of pests inside the facilities are visitors and employees. So facilities/organizations must have clear guidelines ( like changing the cloths / Washing hands/cleaning shoes etc.) for visitors and employees and specifically those who are associated close to the manufacturing lines/product storage.
If we summarize above then we can say that in any of the food manufacturing or storage facility there are 4 reasons for pest attraction :
- Water Availability
- Food Availability
- Possible shelter / harborage
- Easy access or open entry points
And to avoid the above factors there are 4 Ds which are must to avoid the pest inside the manufacturing or storage facility.
D – Deny Entry
D – Deny Food
D – Deny Shelter
D – Destroy
Pest Management Program
After pest behavior and factors attracting the pests, let us have a look of detailed Pest Management Program.
Pest Management goes hand by hand between organization manufacturing/ storing the food and the trained agency which is responsible/ Contracted for pest control.
Under the Pest Control umbrella, Organization is responsible for cleaning and sanitation, control on the entry points, habitat modification, Waste Management and other practices like Good Manufacturing Process, Good Housekeeping Practices and Good Warehousing Practices etc.
Cleaning and Sanitation:
Organization must have a documented inspection / Cleaning and Sanitation Process. This process must include all the areas like floor, roof, false ceiling with defined frequencies of Daily / Weekly / Monthly and Annual intervals. This cleaning will rule out the possibility of pest harborage and also will remove the pest traces as well. Other than structural areas all equipment must also have a defined cleaning program with frequencies suggested by the OEMs or by the organization.
Waste management also plays a very critical role in pest control because poor waste management may lead to serious pest related issues. So waste must be placed to the designated place in the right manner (like covered, not accessible etc.) which poses a minimum risk to the food items. Waste must be disposed of in quick frequencies to avoid decay and infestation.
Control on the Entry Points:
Controlling the entry of pest is one of the most critical aspects of Pest Management. All the doors which are opening directly to the exterior environment must be covered for each small gap/ hole. In manufacturing facilities, windows must be covered/screened properly. In the warehouses, auto doors are highly recommended with air curtains. This will minimize the possibility of pest entry while loading and unloading the materials. Other than warehouse doors, all the emergency doors must be packed from all sides (by rubber strip). The main entry door must have double door entry so that chances of pest entry can be minimized.
By correcting habitat we can reduce the pest activities. One of the major facts is hidden/ inaccessible places like the roof or false ceilings. These are the places where most of the pests grow so by proofing / modifying these areas we may eliminate areas where pests grow. Other corrections include Lighting. Lighting attracts most of the flying pests and by putting the right type of lights we may reduce the same. If we replace normal lights with LED or sodium lights then attraction can be reduced up to significant levels. Vegetation in the exterior areas may also act as a pest carrier to the facilities so all the vegetation in external areas must be removed frequently.
Correction in Other Practices:
Correction in Other Practices like Good Manufacturing Practices, Good Housekeeping Practices, Good Logistics Practices and Good Warehousing Practices etc may reduce the pests up to the maximum. Few of them includes :
A ) Incoming Material Inspection:
All materials ( Raw/Pack/Equipment/Others) must be inspected thoroughly before taking inside the facility. Each consignment must be inspected for any pest-related activities ( like a live pest, evidence like excreta or feathers etc.) and in case of any shreds of evidence, consignment must be rejected.
B) Good Warehousing Practices:
All the stocks must be kept a minimum 18 inches away from the wall so that the inspection process is easy to perform and pest will not get into contact easily. It is always recommended to have plastic pallets in the manufacturing area. In wooden pallets are used then pallets must be regularly cleaned and treated for pest activity regularly. Also, unused pallets must not be kept in open areas as this may carry the pests from outside to inside.
C) Good Housekeeping Practices:
Other than cleaning and sanitation, removal of used RM/PM bags, scraps, and other unwanted materials also plays an important role in minimizing the pest activities.
D ) Good Logistics Practices:
As mentioned above, the material movement also plays a very critical role in pest control. For this its recommended that organization must have dedicated vehicles for raw material movements and if not possible then the vehicle must be cleaned and inspected before loading. Also, it must be ensured that vehicle is dedicated to food item transportation (not for non-food etc.) Also, the Vehicle must be treated for pest control at regular intervals ( once in a month is recommended ).