Food companies have to manage a variety of pests seeking harborage, food, water and other resources in their facilities. Among these pests, flies can be some of the most difficult to manage. Frank Meek, technical services manager for Orkin and board-certified entomologist with 36 years’ experience in the food industry, shares strategies to you can take to mitigate the risk of flies in your food facility.
Why are flies such a problem for food companies?
Meek: Flies are prolific breeders, carriers of multiple potential pathogens, vectors of contamination and a costly pest for food manufacturing and processing facilities if not handled appropriately. One female fly can create hundreds of eggs in five or six days and potentially introduce many microorganisms and pathogens.
Which types of flies pose the greatest risk to food establishments?
Meek: The types of flies most likely to impact food-handling establishments are:
- “Filth” flies, which can transmit bacteria and other pathogens to surfaces
- Attracted to odors first, then food waste, organic build up, sewage and feces
- g., house flies and blow flies
- “Nuisance” flies, which typically do not transmit pathogens, but can still cause harm
- Attracted to overripe or decaying fruits, vegetables or other organic materials
- g., fruit flies, drain flies and phorid flies
How can you keep flies from entering your facility?
Meek: Flies don’t need a lot of space to get in and out of buildings. They typically enter buildings through frequently opened doors and improperly sealed openings such as drains/pipes, ventilation systems and windows. Because of this, exclusion—using preventive methods to help eliminate pest entry points—will help to keep flies out.
- Seal any unplanned cracks, holes and crevices as soon as you notice them to avoid pests accessing your building.
- Seal all doors and windows with weather stripping.
- Limit direct lighting around the entrances of your facility.
- If you must have lighting near the entrances, use sodium-vapor light bulbs, as these are less appealing to insects than fluorescent bulbs (which draw pests in, especially at night) or indirect lighting.
The best way to deter flies is to seek a pest control provider that offers an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. A successful IPM program is proactive, environmentally conscious and addresses the reasons pests are attracted to your facility. IPM is a team effort between you and your pest control provider. Once implemented, your IPM program should be reviewed at least annually with your pest management professional to ensure continued improvement.
How can facilities improve sanitation methods to prevent infestations?
Meek: Ensure you have a rigorous sanitation routine that addresses high and low pest-pressure areas within your facility. If you already have a schedule, work with your pest control provider to review it so it includes the following:
- Keep dumpsters and trash cans as far away from the facility as possible.
- Work with your waste management company to routinely clean or rotate your dumpster.
- Install odor control devices where needed to eliminate foul smells that might attract flies.
- Remove trash, debris and food from areas like employee lockers or breakrooms multiple times throughout the day.
- Keep tight lids on interior trash receptacles, change the liners daily and regularly clean out the bottom of the bins.
- Sanitation teams should also regularly clean machinery that handles food, as joints and crevices can build up organic matter and attract pests.
If you have a fly infestation, how do you get control of that and reduce future issues?
Meek: There are several steps you can take to control and prevent infestations. They include:
- Sanitation Routine: should be rigorous to help eliminate fly eggs, habitats and attractants
- Work with your pest control provider to review your current cleaning program and make any needed changes to frequencies.
- At times, non-residual and / or residual pesticide application may be needed to help reduce populations
- Traps and Fly Lights: monitor the efficiency of your overall fly control program, but they are not a complete control option
- Mechanical traps can be used in many areas of your facility. Your pest control provider can work with you to determine the best locations and type of device needed.
- Installing fly lights will allow you to monitor fly activity.
- Employee Training: can help catch pest issues before they become a bigger problem
- Work with your pest control provider to train your staff on how to spot and report signs of pest activity.
- Most pest control providers offer complimentary staff training that clarifies the role your employees play in preventing pest infestations.
Want to learn more about how flies can affect food-handling businesses and what you can do to protect your products and employees? Download Orkin’s No Fly Zone Fly Prevention for Food Processors ebook.
In a move lauded by the pest management industry, the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI) announced toward the end of 2020 that the SQF Code Edition 9 for Food Manufacturing contains specific language endorsing the use of electronic monitoring devices in pest prevention programs. This new edition of SQF’s Code, which will be implemented starting May 2021, will guide participating companies in the implementation of some of the most stringent food safety management practices in the industry.
Specifically, section 11.2.4 of the SQF Code Edition 9, entitled Pest Prevention, details that for a pest prevention program to be effectively implemented, it shall “…Include the identification, location, number, and type of applied pest control/monitoring devices on a site map.” Additionally, the Code spells out numerous expectations for pest control providers, including that they “Provide a pest prevention plan (refer to 18.104.22.168), which includes a site map, indicating the location of bait stations, traps and other applicable pest control/monitoring devices.” SQF’s codification of electronic rodent monitoring systems is an acknowledgement of the important role played by electronic pest monitoring in modern food safety practices.
The American Institute of Baking (AIB) also recognizes electronic rodent monitoring in its food safety certification scheme. Specifically, section 4.11 of the AIB International Consolidated Standards of Inspection notes that rodent monitoring devices should identify and capture rodents that gain access to a facility and includes among the acceptable monitoring options “extended trigger traps that send alert e-mails or text messages.” AIB’s schematic points out that remote monitoring devices may play a particularly relevant role in facilities in countries or regions where the use of mechanical traps is prohibited.
While SQF is the first GFSI Certification Program Owner (CPO) and AIB is the first Certification Body (CB) to formally include electronic rodent monitoring in their protocols, it is only a matter of time before other certification programs, certification bodies and recognized standards such as GMP/HACCP follow suit.
A discussion of electronic pest monitoring and a remote, digital rodent monitoring system, that provides 24/7, real time status alerts, for the food industry, may seem like a big leap forward. However, it was only a short time ago that many in the food industry needed to be convinced that a transition from a manual, pen and paper monitoring system of cold storage temperatures to a fully automated, 24/7 digital monitoring system with real time alerts, was needed. This is an example of technology being used in a meaningful way to eliminate the time-consuming aspect of certain important tasks and allow more time to be devoted to activities that contribute to the process of continuous improvement.
As remote and electronic monitoring systems, such as the Bayer Rodent Monitoring System (RMS), become better known and understood and their important role in elevating IPM programs more obvious, it is becoming clearer that auditing bodies will begin considering the presence of such systems in their evaluation protocols, even if formal changes to various standards lags behind.
If you are in doubt as to whether or not the next auditor, regulatory or non-regulatory, that will walk into your facility understands the role electronic rodent monitoring plays in supporting a robust food safety management program, take the lead on this important issue and raise the subject prior to your next audit.
|Content Sponsored by Bayer Rodent Monitoring System.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of hundreds of restaurants, food processors and other businesses nationwide. As weeks went on, increased rodent activity plagued many businesses, some of which has been attributed to a change in food sources and availability—so much so that the CDC released a warning about rodent control in restaurants and other commercial businesses that have either been closed or have had limited service during the pandemic. “Environmental health and rodent control programs may see an increase in service requests related to rodents and reports of unusual or aggressive rodent behavior,” the CDC stated last month.
As the American economy reopens, many food establishments and facilities must consider three key points that will affect pest management during this time:
- Pest pressure continues. Rodents are on a never-ending search for food, water and harborage.
- Change in business patterns. Different inbound and outbound shipments; changes in employee shifts and production schedules; new supply chain partners.
- Service provider access. Access to facilities and secure areas; changes in facility structure, equipment and storage
Factoring the many changes that COVID-19 has prompted, the role of pest management is more important than ever. We invite you to join us for Food Safety Tech’s upcoming complimentary virtual conference, “Integrated Pest Management: Protect Food Safety and Prevent the Spread of Pathogens”, on June 30. Our Technical Service Lead, Joe Barile, will discuss pest management and risk mitigation in the COVID-19 world; he will be followed by Orkin’s VP of Quality Assurance and Technical Services, Judy Black, on the key components to successful IPM and pest management programs, and Angela Anandappa, Ph.D. of the Alliance for Advanced Sanitation on how an effective sanitation program can protect against pest and food contamination. Register now.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to take a toll on live events, Innovative Publishing Company, Inc. has made the careful decision to convert the Food Safety Consortium, which historically has taken place in Schaumburg, IL, to a virtual conference. This move takes into consideration Illinois’ COVID-19 plan to reopen its economy, which is a Five-Phase Plan. Phase 5 occurs when groups larger than 50 (conferences and conventions specifically mentioned) will be allowed. The state enters Phase 5 only when a vaccine or an effective treatment is in place. The decision to take the Food Safety Consortium virtual is based on the Illinois reopening plan, along with considering the safety and well being of staff, attendees, speakers and sponsors.
Every Thursday, beginning on September 10 through November 12, the Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series will host two presentations and two sponsored Tech Talks, followed by a panel discussion with attendees. Food Safety Tech is the media sponsor.
“This will be much more than a bunch of webinars. We are excited to offer a virtual platform that facilitates greater human interaction,” says Rick Biros, president of Innovative Publishing and director of the Food Safety Consortium. “Whether it’s a random connection in a hotel lobby, a stroll by a booth at a trade show, or a seat next to a new friend in a learning session, we recognize that human connection is important for events. That’s why we’ve invested in new tools for the FSC Conference Virtual Platform to ensure those discussions, discoveries and connections can go on whether our event is offline or online. The new platform provides attendees with a way to keep track of live sessions, connect with sponsors and engage with peers, all in a familiar way. It will also include an event App that offers interactive features.”
Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner for food policy and response, will remain a keynote speaker, with the new presentation date to be announced.
Call for Abstracts
We are accepting abstracts for participation in the Food Safety Consortium Virtual Series. On the Submit an Abstract page, select Food Safety Consortium 2020 in the drop-down menu.
- Food safety
- Food defense
- Food integrity
- Food safety supply chain management
- Lessons learned COVID-19
- Regulatory compliance
- Facility design
- C-suite executive forum
Tech Talk Sponsorship
Companies that are interested in sponsoring a 10-minute technical presentation during the series can also submit their abstract through the portal. For pricing information, contact IPC Sales Director RJ Palermo.
About Food Safety Tech
Food Safety Tech publishes news, technology, trends, regulations, and expert opinions on food safety, food quality, food business and food sustainability. We also offer educational, career advancement and networking opportunities to the global food industry. This information exchange is facilitated through ePublishing, digital and live events.
About the Food Safety Consortium Conference and Expo (The live event)
Food companies are concerned about protecting their customers, their brands and their own company’s financial bottom line. The term “Food Protection” requires a company-wide culture that incorporates food safety, food integrity and food defense into the company’s Food Protection strategy.
The Food Safety Consortium is an educational and networking event for Food Protection that has food safety, food integrity and food defense as the foundation of the educational content of the program. With a unique focus on science, technology and compliance, the “Consortium” enables attendees to engage in conversations that are critical for advancing careers and organizations alike. Delegates visit with exhibitors to learn about cutting-edge solutions, explore three high-level educational tracks for learning valuable industry trends, and network with industry executives to find solutions to improve quality, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the evolving food industry.
As food processors and retailers work tirelessly to feed the public during the current global health pandemic, pests continue to work overtime to keep their food supply on track. Filth flies, cockroaches and rodents, in particular, pose a threat to the food supply chain, especially with concerns of the transmission of pathogens at an all-time high. The last thing your business needs is an avoidable food safety incident that threatens your reputation and bottom line.
When it comes to food safety, pathogen-spreading pests have no place in your facility and pose a major public health risk. Not only can these filthy pests become a nuisance within your facility, they can also contaminate your products and spread foodborne bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, which can cause illnesses.
Knowing what attracts these pests to your facility and the dangers they pose is important for effective removal. Let’s dive into the signs of cockroaches, filth flies and rodents, and the specific concerns they can cause.
Frank Meek will share his expertise during a complimentary webinar on March 4, “Making the Grade: Tips for Passing Food Safety Audits During the Pandemic” Cockroaches
Cockroaches seek four things that food processing facilities provide in abundance—food, shelter, proper temperatures and water. With the ability to squeeze through tiny gaps and cracks, these dirty pests enjoy crawling under equipment, in cabinets and through drains to find their next meal. Cockroaches can be found in and around almost any place within your facility. They’re capable of carrying harmful bacteria that they can spread from one location to another. Look out for droppings, cast skins or egg cases, which might signal a cockroach problem.
You may think these types of flies have no desire to be inside, but they are in fact happy to go wherever the conditions are right. The most common filth fly is the housefly. These winged pests can carry and spread more than 100 disease-causing pathogens including bacteria, fungi and viruses. These can cause illnesses such as cholera, dysentery and infantile diarrhea. Filth flies in your facility can lead to a major public health issue if your food becomes contaminated.
One of the filthiest pests around, rodents can contaminate your food supply, destroy or consume products and cause structural damage to your facility. Like cockroaches, mice and rats can fit through relatively small spaces to find food and water. With sightings on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll want to keep an eye out for rodents near your food products. These mighty chewers pose a public health threat as they can transmit diseases such as hantavirus and lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM) via their urine and droppings.
The presence of these vermin in your facility threatens public health. Additionally, an infestation can slow down the supply chain by causing businesses to recall contaminated foods.
A rigorous sanitation routine is one of the most effective ways to proactively manage pests like cockroaches, rodents and filth flies. Regularly sanitizing and disinfecting your facility can help eliminate any pathogens left behind on hard surfaces and remove the attractants for which they search. While cleaning removes dirt and buildup, sanitization and disinfection kill bacteria and pathogens, reducing the risk of a food safety issue.
Including the following tips in your cleaning routine can help keep your products and reputation safe from harm.
- Clean out drains routinely with an enzymatic cleaning solution that can break down the organic grime.
- Disinfect high-touch hard surfaces with a proper and low-toxicity disinfectant to kill bacteria and pathogens that can cause food illnesses.
- Move dumpsters away from your building to reduce flies being attracted to and then gaining easy entry into your facility.
- Wipe spills as soon as they occur to prevent them from becoming a sticky paradise for flies and cockroaches.
- Practice good hygiene in your work environment and ensure employees are washing their hands regularly and keeping break rooms free of trash and leftovers.
Implementing exclusion practices such as sealing cracks, gaps and holes in walls with a proper sealant can also help you keep pests out. Budget allowing, consider investing in insect light traps and mechanical traps to help reduce flying insects inside.
Communication with your suppliers and distributors is also important to ensure food safety. If your partners implement similar measures, you’re more likely to protect the public from harmful diseases. Furthermore, customers will continue to trust your business.
While following these tips can help reduce the chances of a pest infestation, it’s not always possible to keep pests and the pathogens they spread out of your food processing facility. Work with a trained pest control specialist to develop a customized prevention program for your business as each type of pest requires specific treatment. They can also help you schedule inspections to identify conditions in and around your facility that may attract flies, cockroaches and rodents, among other pests.
I know, it’s a disgusting, lazy attention-grabbing image, but if you’ve stayed with me this far it must have worked. Sadly, the story is true; it was back in the 1980s the first time that I heard of how a mouse in a bottling plant got stuck inside one of the empties ready to go onto the filling line. Unnoticed, this mouse was immersed in the beverage, was then sealed in when the bottle cap was applied, and then drowned while the bottle was packaged and palletized. While the product moved through distribution to retail, its carcass slowly dissolved and went unnoticed until an unsuspecting customer … well, you can imagine how that story ended.
After recounting this story recently, imagine my surprise to learn this is still happening today! Maybe three years ago, The Verge published a “A brief history of rodents in soda containers” and, in the present age of social media, it will surprise no one to see the video filmed by someone who spotted the mouse in their soda bottle! No surprise, there’s more than one filming of a mouse in a sealed Coca Cola bottle, the horror continues.
Let’s not pretend this is only a problem with fizzy drinks industry, every food manufacturing concern faces the risk of inadvertent contamination of their production from rodents; if not the whole animal itself, then it’s urination on raw commodity, or its fecal pellets falling into a mixer, or its hairs falling off in packaging. No wonder a well-designed and faithfully serviced pest management program and proper IPM inspections are necessary for every facility in the industry. The good news is there are digital rodent monitoring systems that can alert pest managers of a rodent capture inside a facility and rodent activity / pressure outside so they can act quickly. Perhaps the most valuable impact of this technology is that it helps automate trap checking that consumes as much as 75% of the service time. Now, that precious time can be reallocated to deeper, proactive IPM inspections to help head off infestations before they happen and root cause analysis and corrective actions if captures occur.
Register to attend the complimentary webinar: New Technology’s Impact on Pest Management in a FSMA Regulated World | March 5, 2020 | 12 pm ETMillions of pounds of food are lost every year due to pest activity. A lot of those lost food products could have been prevented through a quality sanitation program. One of the best ways to protect your facility from the potential damage and pathogen spread caused pests like rodents is to maintain a quality sanitation program.
Every sanitation program should take into consideration conditions that are conducive to attracting and supporting unwanted visitors. As rodents are incredibly agile and intelligent creatures, one of the best ways to keep them out of a facility is to give them no reason to be interested in coming in. This means eliminating access to each of their basic needs: Food, water and harborage—in any amount. Remember, they are small, scrappy creatures and only need crumbs and droplets of water to survive. Once you change your perspective from that of a human being to that of a rodent you may be surprised by the bountiful conditions that are at your feet.
As technologies become more and more advanced, the best pest technicians are often those willing to use the latest and greatest, most advanced tools on the market to provide superior service. However, if your technician is not carrying this one basic item in their toolkit, there is a good chance you’re not getting the quality of service you deserve. Any guesses at what that tool might be?
Register now for the complimentary webinar: New Technology’s Impact on Pest Management in the FSMA Regulated World | March 5, 2020 | 12 pm ETIf you guessed flashlight, you’re correct. Whether or not your technician carries a flashlight with them when they perform the inspection speaks volumes about the quality of service you are getting. A flashlight tells you two important things. First, that your technician is not just checking traps, but performing an investigation. He or she is looking for conditions that attract and foster pests. Second, a flashlight sends the message that your technician is willing to inspect dark or difficult-to-reach places. This is the type of technician willing to get on hands and knees to check under equipment. They will climb and crouch in order to reach the places pests are likely hiding. They value a pest-free environment more than their own convenience.
In short, the most important work your pest technician can provide is a thorough investigation to help prevent pest problems before they occur. If your pest technician is not performing an investigation each time they enter your facility, you’re not getting the value you need and should expect from your service provider.
The unlimited supply of food sources that manufacturing facilities provide can make pest management a daunting task, especially with the scrutiny of third-party auditors, government regulators and customers. These high standards, along with yours, mean that diligence is a key ingredient in the recipe for pest management success.
Why is this important? The steps you take to prevent pests, and how issues are resolved if pest activity is detected, affects the overall credibility of your business. After all, pest management can account for up to 20% of an audit score.
Auditors look for an integrated pest management (IPM) plan, which includes prevention, monitoring, trend reports and corrective actions. If you want to stay audit-ready, all the time, implement the following five principles.
Open Lines of Communication
A successful pest management partnership is just that: A partnership. Create an open dialogue for ongoing communication with your pest management provider. Everyone has a role to play from sanitation to inspection to maintenance. For example, if there are any changes in your facility, such as alteration of a production line, let your provider know during their next service visit. During each visit, it’s important to set aside time to discuss what was found and done during the visit, including new pest sightings and concerns.
Communication shouldn’t be limited to the management team; your entire staff should be on board. During their day-to-day duties, employees should know what to look for, and most importantly, what to do if they notice pests or signs of pests. Reporting the issue right away can make a huge difference in solving a pest problem before it gets out of hand. Also, most pest management providers offer staff training sessions. These can be an overview of the basics during your next staff meeting or a specialized training on a pertinent issue.
A thorough inspection can tell you a lot about your facility and the places most at risk for pests. Your pest management provider will be doing inspections every visit, but routine inspections should be done by site personnel as well. Everyone at the site has a set of eyes, so why not use them? This way, you can identify hot spots for pests and keep a closer eye on them. Pests are small and can get in through the tiniest of gaps, so some potential entry points to look out for are:
• Windows and doors. Leaving them propped open is an invitation for all sorts of pests. Don’t forget to check the bottom door seal and ensure it is sealed tight to the ground.
- Floor drains. Sewers can serve as a freeway system for cockroaches, and drains can grant them food, water and shelter.
- Dock plates. A great entry point for pests, as there are often gaps surrounding dock plates.
- Ventilation intakes. These are a favorite spot for perching, roosting or nesting birds, as well as entry points for flying insects.
- Roof. You can’t forget about the roof, as it serves as a common entry point for birds, rodents and other pests.
Another thing to look for is conducive conditions, such as sanitation issues and moisture problems. These are areas where there may not be pests yet, but they provide a perfect situation that pests could take advantage of if they aren’t dealt with. Make sure to take pictures of deficiencies so that can be shared with the maintenance department or third-party who can fix it. You can also take a picture of the work when it has been finished, showing the corrective action!
Keep It Clean
Proper sanitation is key to maintaining food safety and for preventing and reducing pests. You need a written sanitation plan to keep your cleaning routine organized and ensure no spots are left unattended for too long. The following are some additional steps consider:
- Minimize and contain production waste. While it’s impossible to clean up all the food in a food processing site (you are producing said food!), it’s important to clean up spills quickly and regularly remove food waste.
- Keep storage areas dry and organized.
- Remember FIFO procedures (first in, first out) when it comes to raw ingredients and finished products.
- Clean and maintain employee areas such as break rooms and locker rooms.
- Ensure the outside of your facility stays clean and neat with all garbage going into trash cans with fitted lids.
- Make sure dumpsters are emptied regularly and the area around them kept clean.
Monitoring devices for many pests will be placed strategically around your facility. Some common ones are insect light traps (ILTs), rodent traps and bait stations, insect pheromone traps and glue boards. It’s important to let employees know what these are there for and to respect the devices (try not to run them over with a fork lift or unplug them to charge a cell phone). These devices will be checked on a regular basis and the type of pest and the number of pests will be recorded. This data can then be analyzed over time to show trends, hot spots, and even seasonal issues. Review this with your pest management provider on a regular basis and establish thresholds and corrective actions to deal with the issues when they reach your threshold. The pest sighting log can also be considered a monitoring tool. Every time someone writes down an issue they have seen, this can be quickly checked and dealt with.
Maintain Proper Documentation
Pest management isn’t a one-time thing but a cycle of ongoing actions and reactions. Capturing the process is extremely important for many reasons. It allows you to analyze, refine and re-adjust for the best results. It’s a great way to identify issues early. Also, it’s a critical step for auditors. Appropriate documentation must be kept on hand and up-to-date. There’s lots of documentation to keep when it comes to pest management and your provider should be keeping all of that ready—from general documentation like your annual facility assessment and risk assessment to training and certification records, pest sighting reports, safety data sheets and more.
The documentation aspect may seem like a lot at first, but a pest management provider can break it down and make it easier. It’s absolutely necessary for food and product safety and will become second nature over time.