Tag Archives: integrated pest management

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Minimize the Risk of Pests by Maximizing Your Staff

By Chelle Hartzer
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Chelle Hartzer, Orkin

If you were given the option to run a long-distance relay race, would you select four runners to split up the distance or would you choose to run it alone? That’s a no-brainer—you’d pick four runners to give yourself the best chance of success every time!

Apply the same mentality to your food safety program, and (by extension) your pest management program. The only way you’re going to be able to effectively monitor an entire facility is by establishing a team to help. Otherwise, that’s a lot of ground for just one person to cover.

As a food processing facility, you probably already have an integrated pest management (IPM) program in place. But does your staff know the telltale signs of rodents or stored product pests? Would they be able to spot cockroaches crawling around in your facility’s storage area? The earlier you can spot a pest problem, the quicker it can be resolved before it turns into a major issue that could prove costly.

Staff training is the best way to get everybody on the same page when it comes to pest management, because pests are great at hiding and living in hard-to-reach locations. It takes a trained eye to spot certain pests, and informed employees can be a great help to this.

Before you begin staff training, you will want to identify all of the areas both inside and outside of your building that are at high risk for pest issues. Schedule a meeting with your pest management provider and make note of the high-risk areas and the most common pests your facility may be prone to. Once you’ve determined these high-risk areas and the best tactics to protect against them, employee training is a logical next step.

The bigger your facility, the tougher it is to manage all of the different potential hot spots. Everybody knows this, but few consider what this means for their pest management programs. Creating an educational pest program for employees is critical to protecting your facility. The employees are on the ground level and are often the most likely spot the early signs of a pest problem.

Step 1: Start with the Basics

When beginning staff training, make sure employees understand the IPM program in place and how it works in your facility. Many pest control providers offer complimentary employee training, so reach out to your provider about on-site training sessions. As employees learn more about what each tactic does to prevent pest issues, they’ll get a better understanding of why pests get into the facility in the first place. Once informed, they can use this knowledge to help reduce potential risk factors such as standing water from a leak, food waste in processing areas and waste removal.

Here are a few telltale signs of some common pests:

  • Stored product pests: Though generally tough to spot, there are some common telltale signs you can spot on products like webbing, larvae, live adults—some of which can look like grain products—and, of course, damaged packaging.
  • Flies: If you see larvae (maggots), especially around drains and in other damp or wet areas, it’s time to act fast. Flies reproduce quickly, so small problems can escalate rapidly.
  • Cockroaches: They can be found behind or under equipment, wall voids, or any other protected area. Cockroaches will take advantage of nearly any food source!
  • Rodents: These pests leave droppings constantly, so watch out for tiny pellets. Rodents are constantly gnawing, so if you see any products with gnaw marks, that’s a good indication that rodents may be present.

A pest management provider can identify what challenges are unique to your facility and which areas are most likely to experience pest activity. Employees are going to be a crucial part of this process, so they will need to know where to look.

Step 2: Designate Roles

Employees are the eyes and ears of your business. Whether it’s pest problems or any other issues at your facility, your staff is probably going to notice issues before management does. Once they know the pests to look out for, they can also keep an eye on:

• Cracks and openings: Any opening that leads from the inside to the outside may allow pests in.
• Sanitation issues: From large bins of food waste, to break room trash cans, let them know to report when these are overflowing or need to be cleaned.

The key is once employees know what to look for, they need to know how and who to report it to. Make sure there is a pest sighting log and employees know where it is and what information to record.

Step 3: Emphasize Communication

Communication is key. We all know that. Which is why it’s so important to encourage the age-old adage when it comes to potential pest problems: “If you see something, say something!” The longer a pest issue persists, the more likely it is to turn into a costly, potentially hazardous infestation.

Consistent communication between employees, management and pest control providers benefits all parties. It ensures employees are in-the-know about important information and new initiatives while making it easier for managers and pest control professionals to stay a step ahead of invading pests. Designate a point person that employees should go to if they have something they want to talk about and make sure to utilize that pest sighting log!

Open dialogue makes it clear to employees that they are a contributing part of your IPM program. Your employees serve as the first line of defense against pests, so if they see pest activity, it’s incredibly important they feel comfortable escalating it immediately. Tell employees you want and need their input in order for your pest management efforts to be most effective. And don’t forget to solicit feedback—they might even have ideas on how to make the program better!

Step 4: Establish a Pest-Sighting Protocol

There needs to be a clear course of action for any employee who notices a pest or evidence of pests within your facility. You’re in the business of protecting your products, and many pests spread dangerous pathogens everywhere they go.

Establishing a protocol for reporting pests will keep things simple for both employee and manager, as it ensures pest problems are documented and action steps are clear. Should a pest be spotted, make sure employees know to do the following:

  • Capture pest(s) for identification if possible. Take pictures if you can’t. The better a pest management professional can see a pest, the more accurately they’ll be able to prescribe a solution.
  • Fill out a pest-sighting log and note when, where and how many pests were seen. Imagine this as a crime scene, and your pest management professional is the crime scene investigator.
  • Contact management if the issue is severe and needs immediate attention, at which point management should contact their pest management professional. The sooner everyone is on the same page, the quicker you can implement a solution to help prevent pests from compromising your products.

Even the best IPM program can’t keep out every pest trying to get into your facility, which is why it’s so important to establish a pest-sighting protocol. It might also be worth forming an IPM committee to meet on a monthly basis. It’s best if this committee includes members from each department and, if possible, the pest management professional in order to promote ongoing improvements.

Step 5: Ongoing Education

Once you’ve taught your employees the basics of how to spot pests, pest evidence, and how to proceed once they see any, training should not stop there.

Although pests stay relatively the same year to year, your facility won’t. Staying up to date with the latest information can help you proactively prevent pests before they become a threat to your operations. Review monitoring reports with your pest management professional to determine if changes need to occur to focus on new areas, or redouble efforts at a hot spot that hasn’t been resolved yet. Remember: Many pest issues take time to completely manage.

Ask your pest management partner for tip sheets, checklists and other educational materials to stay current, and share them with your employees. Also, keep in mind that different pests thrive in different weather conditions, so adjust your tips for employees seasonally so they know what to look for.

With all staff members consistently armed with the necessary information to help identify hot spots and minimize the risk of pests, you’ll be in great shape for your next audit. Just make sure to document everything being done to help proactively protect products. You’ve got to have proof of your efforts!

Glen Ramsey, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Using Monitoring Devices to Protect Products from Pests

By Glen Ramsey
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Glen Ramsey, Orkin

They’re sneaking in through your windows, crawling through your front door when nobody is looking and squeezing through tiny openings to steal your food. They’re tough to catch, and even tougher to spot.

Naturally, we’re talking about pests. They come in all shapes and sizes, but have the same goal: To find a reliable, safe place to call home where they have abundant access to food, water and shelter. Unfortunately, food processing facilities offer pests all three of these things, making them susceptible to infestations that can compromise products and hurt the bottom line.

You probably already have an integrated pest management (IPM) program in place to mitigate the risk of pests inside your facility. While these programs are great for offering proactive, preventive solutions that use chemical solutions as a last resort, they shouldn’t be the beginning and end of your pest management efforts.

First and foremost, facility staff should always be familiar with the warning signs of pest issues and what to do if they spot something crawling around the building. Most pest management companies will offer complimentary training sessions for you and your staff, which is a great first step. Then, during your weekly/monthly staff meetings, let your employees know which pests are most likely to cause a problem and include some images of warning signs. Empower them to call out problems, explain the risks of pest damage to your products, and you’ll have a better chance of catching pest problems early.

But your staff can’t be expected to spot everything, and there are always pests that slip through the cracks.

That’s why pest management professionals frequently recommend using a variety of tools to closely watch pest activity and detect emerging hot spots around facilities. Tools like IR thermometers, moisture meters and telescoping cameras help pest management professionals identify these high-risk areas. Once these areas have been identified, your pest management professional can take the next step in advanced detection using monitoring devices to paint the picture of pest activity around your facility.

Monitoring devices make it easier to see where pests are traveling and give an idea for how many may be present. These devices capture pests for identification, assist in early detection and will help to mitigate the risk of infestation through early warning. If you’re particularly worried about an upcoming audit or the recent enforcement deadlines for FSMA, these devices will give you a better chance of scoring well and can help you demonstrate compliance by shifting your pest management plan to a more proactive approach as mandated by these new regulations.

There could be quite a few of these monitoring devices you’d like to start using around your facility today.

Fly Lights

A popular device found in many food processing facilities, fly lights attract flying pests by emitting strong UV lights that draws insects in, at which point they become trapped on a sticky glue board in the back of the light—out of sight and away from your products. They work best when placed inside near doorways and windows where pests might be able to squeeze inside, but they’re effective just about anywhere. Discuss placement with your pest management provider.

Why does it work?

The leading theory on why flying pests are attracted to lights has to do with their reliance on the sun and moon as navigational guides. In the past, insects could use the sun and moon as a guide because it stayed at a constant angle, allowing them to move in a consistent direction. However, artificial light confuses them and causes them to circle around the light source. Insects that move towards light in this way are called positively phototactic, while pests like cockroaches who move away from light are called negatively phototactic.

Mechanical Traps

Most commonly used for rodents, mechanical traps can allow for the humane capture and removal of rats and mice. These traps sound simple, and that’s because it is; the concept hasn’t changed for years. Why? Because it’s effective! Rodent curiosity or bait can draw the rodent inside one of these stations, which have a mechanical door ready to close as soon as it enters. There is also new technology on the way that will instantly notify both customer and pest management professional when this occurs, so the creature can be removed immediately. These stations are most frequently used around the interior perimeter of a facility to keep rodents from getting further than the exterior walls.

Why does it work?
Simply put, rodents will often run along walls. They’re extremely athletic and very clever, which is why it’s never recommended to try to place traps yourself. They can learn from close calls with unsuccessful trapping techniques, which is why it isn’t worth the risk to handle rodent issues alone. With proper knowledge and placement, they can be outsmarted.

Sticky Traps and Glue Boards

Perhaps the simplest tools in the pest professional’s shed, sticky traps and glue boards are meant to reduce the population of crawling insects around a facility. Because they’re not very large, they can be used just about anywhere inside a facility.

Why does it work?

These are usually used for small population control in areas where crawling pests are already present. Sticky traps and glue boards are generally coated with a substance that attract pests, which then ensnares them when they step on the surface of the trap. These are great for catching pests like cockroaches, and give you a sense of how many pests are coming through an area over a period of time. Over time, you’ll be able to see if the population is trending downwards or if the problem is getting worse based on the number of pests captured.

Pheromone Traps

Great for combating the stored product pests that pose a huge threat to food processing facilities with large inventories, pheromone traps trick pests into getting trapped. While sticky traps can be used all over, pheromone traps are more effectively used by placing them strategically around storage areas to help monitor for any stored product pests.

Why does it work?

This type of trap uses synthetically replicated versions of insect pheromones, which are secreted chemicals that insects put out to communicate with each other. In this case, the pheromone traps lure pests out from their hiding/feeding areas. There are also probe-type pheromone traps that are best used in bulk grain storage if necessary.

Now this isn’t an exclusive list of all the monitoring devices a pest management professional can recommend around your facility, but it does give you an idea of the most common, effective devices out there. Keep in mind that sanitation and exclusion must also be a big part of any IPM program, but monitoring devices (along with detailed documentation) can take your program to the next level and give you a better feel for the pest issues your facility deals with the most.

Any time you’re using these tools and devices to detect pest hot spots, it’s important to record the results over time. Your pest management professional will keep a logbook of findings on site, and you should reference that regularly. Also, consider requesting or creating a trend map of pest activity over time to help you see which pests are plaguing your facility the most. That way, it will be easy to work towards improving the pest management program you have in place, which in turn will help protect your products from contamination and protect your bottom line.

Zia Siddiqi, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Stored Product Pests May Be Lurking in Your Facility

By Zia Siddiqi, Ph.D.
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Zia Siddiqi, Orkin

Pests can be sneaky. Many can compromise food products without anyone realizing they’re present. This is bad news for food processing facilities where an abundance of food products can translate into high pest pressure.

Beetles and moths are two of the main offenders in this environment and are referred to as stored product pests. These creatures can cause safety and legal concerns if they find their way into products, as they are quite adept at doing. They can damage packaging and cause product contamination or alter the taste of products when they secrete chemicals from their bodies, as many do.

This is not only a concern for your business’s reputation and bottom line, but could cost you major points on your next audit. Especially under the new FSMA regulations, prevention must be the emphasis in all U.S. facilities. This represents a shift from previous regulations as the new ones require risk-based preventive controls.

Integrate pest management
Does your company have an integrated pest management plan? Image courtesy of Orkin

The best way to prevent stored product pests and adhere to FSMA regulations is by implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) program. IPM programs focus on proactively preventing pests by inspection, monitoring and eliminating conditions that attract or harbor them using tactics like exclusion and sanitation, using chemicals only as a last resort. Under FSMA, you need to identify potential roadblocks and actively work to remove them. Showing constant improvement over time is an absolute must.

These programs also call for comprehensive documentation to monitor pest issues and ensure improvements are made over time. Auditors love to see documentation, as it shows that you are consciously working to strengthen your pest management efforts with continual improvement. If your facility doesn’t have an IPM program, it’s time to make a change sooner rather than later.

To successfully prevent stored product pests, you need to understand what they are and why they are attracted to your facility.

Types of Stored Product Pests

There are many different species of stored product pests, but they can be classified by four main categories based on their biology and habits:

  1. Scavengers: Eat just about anything, even if other pests have been there first. Pests in this category include the red flour beetle and sawtoothed grain beetle.
  2. External feeders: Feed on the exterior of cereal (grain) and kernel products and work their way inside. Pests in this category include Indian meal moths and cigarette beetles.
  3. Internal feeders: Lay eggs in the grain and feed on kernels from inside. Pests in this category include granary weevils, lesser grain borers and Angoumois grain moths.
  4. Secondary feeders: Eat from the outside in and consume moldy and damp food products. Pests in this category include spider beetles and fungus beetles.

How do you know if you have stored product pests? An infestation becomes apparent when the pests can be observed crawling or flying around. At this point, it’s important to identify the specific species that is plaguing your facility, as this will dictate the appropriate treatment method.  A trained professional can help correctly identify the species and recommend the best course of action to resolve the problem. Stored product pests reproduce quickly, so it’s critical to address any infestations before they have time to multiply and contaminate additional product.

The most common stored product pests are:

  • Sawtoothed Grain Beetle. Can burrow directly through boxes and packaging, so even sealed foods are at risk. They prefer processed food products like bran, chocolate, oatmeal, sugar and macaroni.
  • Indian Meal Moths. One of the most common pests for food processing facilities, the larva feeds on a large variety of different products. Some distinctive signs of an infestation are silk webbing and frass near the surface of the product.
  • Cigarette and Drugstore Beetles. Also able to chew through packaging, these beetles prefer pet food, spices, tobacco and any packaged food.
  • Granary and Rice Weevils. Prefer whole grains or seed products like popcorn, birdseed and nuts. They are recognizable by a snout protruding from their head and their reddish-brown bodies. Grains infested by weevils will be hollow and have small holes.
  • Spider Beetles. Similar to small spiders in appearance, they prefer grains, seeds, dried fruits and meats. They often accompany a rodent infestation because they prefer grain products that are old and moist.

Prevention Tactics

To help prevent stored product pests, incorporate the following tactics as part of your IPM program:

  • Closely inspect incoming shipments and packages. Look for the signs of stored product pests, like webbing, larvae and live adult insects. Check for signs of damage, especially for holes that can be caused by boring pests. To monitor for pests entering in this way, a quality assurance sample should be placed in a closed, labeled plastic container for later observations to see if any activity is noticed. This will give you a better idea if pests are present and what types may be being introduced via the incoming shipment.
  • Use of pheromone traps. These are the best tool to monitor the pest activity. These traps can also be placed in transportation vehicles to see if the trucks have a resident stored product pest population.
  • Use temperature as a repellant. Most stored product pests cannot live in extreme temperatures. If storage rooms can be maintained at 60°F or lower, stored product pests won’t be able to establish themselves inside.
  • Practice the first-in, first-out (FIFO) approach for products. Deteriorating products are an invitation to stored product pests, so make sure that older products go first and remove any with damages. It is also best to store products off the floor and more than 18 inches from walls, as it makes it easier to clean the surrounding area.
  • Create a sanitation schedule. Keeping a facility free of food debris will go a long way in eliminating attractants for pests. Clean up product spills immediately, and vacuum and wipe down everything on a regular basis. Don’t forget the cracks and crevices!

Keep in mind that being proactive is an important part of this entire process. If you see something, say something. Resolving pest issues as quickly as possible will be beneficial in the long run, as infestations are naturally more difficult to remove and could cost your facility dearly during an audit. A pest management professional will be able to point out the hot spots around a facility and can help to ensure that proactive prevention tactics are in place before anything gets out of hand. If any products are compromised, discard them immediately.

Pest Management: A Team Effort

The stakes are high in the food processing environment, which means pest control must be a priority. The most successful pest control programs are a team effort. Form a strong partnership with your pest management provider and work closely with them throughout the year to proactively prevent pest problems. Reach out to them early and often if you suspect any issues.

It’s also important that your entire staff is aware of pest management initiatives and tactics, which is why many pest management providers offer free staff training courses upon request. Take advantage of the resources available through your provider.

Working with a pest management provider to create a customized, IPM plan will help prevent pests and in turn protect the quality of your products and your business.

Zia Siddiqi, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Rodents: The Winter Invaders

By Zia Siddiqi, Ph.D.
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Zia Siddiqi, Orkin

As temperatures plummet throughout the United States, rodents become more active in seeking out a warm shelter for the winter. Unfortunately, food processing facilities are perfect for rodents because they have everything that rodents need to survive.

Rodents are scavengers, and as a result they like to have all of their survival needs in close proximity at all times. Once they enter your facility, their three main needs are food, water and shelter, so it’s easy to see why food processing facilities are an appealing target.

Before anything else, you’ll want to work with your pest management professional to make sure that your facility has an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to help keep pests out. An IPM program is tailor-made for each facility and focuses on environmentally friendly prevention and exclusion tactics to protect your facility, using chemicals only as a last resort. A strong program can help prevent a number of different pests from getting into your facility, even rodents. This preventive approach also compliments the HARPC under FSMA.

Adaptable and clever, rodents can be a pain if they are able to get inside. Rats can fit through a hole the size of a quarter, while mice can fit through a hole the size of a dime. Rodents are also known to chew on openings around a facility in order to make them large enough to squeeze through. Even the smallest of cracks and gaps can become a pathway inside to a wandering rodent.

There are significant health and safety risks associated with rodents that should make you carefully consider your current pest management program and its tactics for keeping them out. Rodents are known carriers of more than 35 different diseases including Hantavirus, salmonellosis, jaundice and plague. All of these are incredibly dangerous to have anywhere near your product, so the best solution is to prevent rodents from getting inside in the first place.

Also, rodents have tiny bladders and frequent bowel movements, so they leave behind a trail of urination and defecation everywhere they go. They’ll expend their waste, which naturally contains pathogens that spread disease, dozens of times a day.

Because of their roaming nature and constant waste expulsion, there are some telltale signs of rodents that can help you detect them before it becomes a major issue. It’s important that you educate your staff about these signs and contact your pest management professional to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.

Signs of Rodent Activity

  • Urine marks and droppings. These can be found nearly anywhere that a rodent has been. Look for little brown pellets and yellowish discoloring, which will show best under UV light. A black light inspection can help determine if there is an infestation.
  • Noises in the walls, basement or ceiling. Gnawing, clawing and scratching noises can be a sign that a rodent might be running around, especially if heard at night. Rodents prefer to stay out of sight when hunting for food, so you won’t often notice them during times of high activity around a facility.
  • Rub marks around corners and baseboards. As they look for food and try to remain unseen, rodents will most often stick close to walls and corners. When they do skitter around, they’ll leave behind brownish marks that can be seen if closely inspected.
  • Musky odors. When rodents congregate in a certain area, their nesting sites will begin to give off a detectable odor especially if the rodents are reproducing.

Issues with rodents can get out of hand quickly as rodents reproduce rapidly. As soon as a rodent feels safe and has warmth and shelter, it will start the reproduction process. Mice produce about eight litters every year with between four and seven pups in a litter, while rats produce about six litters every year with between eight and twelve pups in a litter. Some rodents can then reach sexual maturity in as little as 35 days after birth, which shows how quickly rodents can multiply within a facility.

Make sure to educate staff on your IPM program, and be sure to establish the proper protocol in the case of a pest sighting. It’s important to note when, where and how many pests were spotted, as this information is valuable when working to resolve a problem.

The key is to stop rodents before a problem becomes an infestation, but trying to catch and remove rodents yourself can make them wise to trapping and baiting techniques. Remember that rodents are quite clever and learn from past experiences. To avoid making things worse in the long run, contact a pest management professional if you think that you have a rodent problem, especially if it might be an infestation.

If you are looking for some ways to make a difference on your own, there are certainly some things that you can do. Treat your facility like a fortress, and every good fortress needs to be as impenetrable as possible. Below are some exclusion and prevention tactics that you can start doing immediately to make your facility as strong as possible.

Rodent Prevention Tips

  • Seal the exterior. Walk around the exterior of your facility and check for any holes or cracks the size of a dime or larger. Pay especially close attention to pipes and other penetrations that may have open spaces around where they enter the building.
  • Remove clutter. Rodents use a variety of materials to build their nests, so areas fraught with clutter will look appealing to them, especially if it’s materials like cardboard boxes and paper.
  • Store food effectively. Keep all food products tightly sealed and off of the floor, as rodents have an easier time detecting and getting into food if it isn’t elevated. Also, containers made of plastic or metal are preferable so that they won’t get chewed through.
  • Clean up. Food and drink particles from spills or waste bins will attract rodents, so clean up and take out the trash regularly. Regular sweeping and mopping is an absolute must, especially around trash receptacles.
  • Trim vegetation. Plants need to be cut back at least two feet from the outside of your building and grass needs to be kept short. Vegetation gives rodents a place to hide, so if not trimmed back it can serve as a “jumping off” point to help rodents get indoors.

It’s also important to consider the environment surrounding your facility, as this can be a major factor in the amount of pest pressure that you experience. For rodents, cities are often hot spots, as other factors like construction and greater waste output from a higher concentration of people can increase pest pressure on a facility.

If you’re worried that your facility might be at risk of a rodent infestation, contact your pest management provider and get an assessment. It’s always better to be prepared with an IPM program ahead of time, as these critters aren’t going to be easy to remove from your facility once they’ve settled inside.

Zia Siddiqi, Orkin
Bug Bytes

From HACCP to HARPC, and Integrating Pest Management

By Zia Siddiqi, Ph.D.
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Zia Siddiqi, Orkin

September 19, 2016 is a date that many of you probably had circled on your calendars. It marked the first date in which many food processing companies had to be in compliance with the FSMA preventive controls final rule.

It’s okay if you’re still revising your food safety plan. The regulations are so sweeping that some companies are still struggling to figure out if their plans are in compliance. At the heart of this law is a change in the philosophy of how we deal with contamination. Now, the focus is on preventing contamination rather than responding to it after it occurs.

This proactive approach to safety must be kept in mind when discussing how food safety plan requirements have changed. For many food manufacturing facilities, it means a change from HACCP to HARPC.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCP, should be more familiar to you. First developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s to provide safe food for astronauts in the U.S. space program, HACCP became the global standard for food safety in the 1980s, as large, multinational companies sought to ensure that their supply chains were safe.

HACCP evolved over the years into an effective, efficient and comprehensive food safety management approach. The system addresses food safety through the analysis and control of biological, chemical and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product.

The seven principles of HACCP include:

  1. Conduct a hazard analysis
  2. Identify critical control points
  3. Set critical limits
  4. Establish monitoring actions
  5. Determine corrective actions
  6. Develop verification procedures
  7. Institute a record-keeping system

How are HACCP and HARPC different?

Following the passage of FSMA, the FDA instituted a new set of food safety standards, known as Hazard Analysis and Risk Based Preventive Controls (HARPC).

HARPC shouldn’t be seen as a replacement of HACCP standards. Rather, it’s an evolution of them. The following are some key changes.

You Must Anticipate Potential Hazards. One of the big changes in moving to HARPC standards is that your food safety plan must identify any and all reasonably foreseeable food safety hazards and include risk-based preventive controls for them. This moves beyond HACCP’s critical control points and asks that food processors look at how to minimize risk from the second food enters their facility to the second it ships out.

This includes naturally occurring hazards as well as hazards that can be intentionally or unintentionally introduced to the facility. The potential hazards that have expanded under HARPC include:

  • Biological, chemical, physical and radiological hazards
  • Natural toxins, pesticides, drug residues, decomposition, parasites, allergens and unapproved food and color additives
  • Naturally occurring hazards or unintentionally introduced hazards
  • Intentionally introduced hazards (including acts of terrorism)

You should review the potential hazards—both seen and unseen—that could impact your facility to determine the risks that you should analyze for your plan.

HARPC Applies to Almost All Food Processing Facilities. The HACCP standards generally did not apply to all food processors. HARPC, however, covers many more U.S. processors. There are six major exceptions, however.

  • Food companies under the exclusive jurisdiction of the USDA
  • Companies subject to the FDA’s new Standards for Produce Safety authorities
  • Facilities that are subject to and comply with FDA’s seafood and juice HACCP regulations
  • Low-acid and acidified canned food processors
  • Companies defined as “small” or “very small” businesses
  • Companies with a previous three-year average product value of less than $500,000

Do these changes mean that your existing food safety plan needs to be scrapped? Not at all. An existing HACCP plan can be modified with the help of a Preventive Control Qualified Individual (another new requirement) to comply with HARPC guidelines. This person needs to be intimately familiar with potential hazards and the risk-based preventive controls for them.

This may sound daunting at first, but moving to HARPC from HACCP will be an easier shift than starting from scratch. The key adjustments that you would need to focus on include identifying risk-based preventive controls for the hazards previously mentioned. Just remember, these hazards should be expanded to include both naturally occurring and unintentionally introduced hazards.

How Does Integrated Pest Management Fit into a Food Safety Plan?

Much like HARPC, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) focuses on being proactive. It emphasizes prevention, focusing on facility maintenance and sanitation, before considering chemical options for pest management.

An IPM plan is benchmarked with regular monitoring and analysis of effectiveness. This may seem cumbersome, but one shouldn’t overlook the value of documentation as a management tool. Collecting data and putting it in context with detailed analysis can be an effective way to prioritize your pest control efforts.

Detailed analysis accounts for things such as normal seasonal cycles, deficiencies in maintenance, exclusion, sanitation and harborages, just to name a few. This analysis can also help improve pest control efforts by prioritizing areas needing attention, especially when your staff is limited by time or resources.

Integrating IPM into your HARPC plan should include analyzing the risks of what could encourage pests to enter your facility, such as doors left open or incoming product shipments. Consider your pest control provider an expert source in how to assess all risks associated with pests and how to establish preventive controls for them.

Despite preventative efforts, unexpected pests will be inevitable. More emphasis will be placed on establishing action thresholds for different pests. This can be a problematic topic, because there are not scientific or broadly accepted threshold values for food processing pests.

Every facility, and often zones within facilities, will likely be different. Identify logical zones—ingredients, processing, packaging and warehousing—and sensible threshold values for each key pest in these zones. Furthermore, establish what the appropriate response should be at certain thresholds. The escalating responses to different levels of pest activity often include things such as automatic authority for certain limited types of pesticide application, more intensive monitoring and inspection, and, of course, higher management notifications, which might lead to more extensive measures.

IPM plans should be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure your program remains as effective as possible. Written food safety plans that follow the HARPC approach and comply with the FSMA rule should be reanalyzed whenever there is a significant change at the facility that might increase a known hazard or introduce a new one. Review the plan at least every three years, if no significant changes occur.

Even if your facility’s deadline for compliance with HARPC standards is a year or two away, now is the time to take a look at your plan and make sure you’re in compliance.

Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Director of Technical Services, Orkin, LLC
Bug Bytes

Don’t Welcome Pests into Your Facility This Winter

By Ron Harrison, Ph.D.
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Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Director of Technical Services, Orkin, LLC

Days are now shorter, and temperatures are slowly dropping in most parts of the country. It is the time of year when individuals look to spend a little more time indoors and a little less time outdoors. However, did you know we aren’t the only ones looking for relief from the cold?

Similarly to us, this is the time of year when certain pests look for a nice, warm home to spend the winter months. The downside for food facilities is that they offer everything pests need for survival—food, water and harborage.

In fact, food facilities can face numerous pest challenges during the colder months, including ants, cockroaches, stored product pests and flies. Additionally, the most common and challenging winter pests are rodents. Due to their ability to squeeze through small spaces and adapt to many different environments, they can be a facility’s worst nightmare.

Don't let rats and mice threaten food safety audit scores. Image courtesy of Orkin
Don’t let rats and mice threaten food safety audit scores. All images courtesy of Orkin

The presence of rats and mice can lead to food contamination and can threaten your food safety audit scores, reputation and bottom line. Rodents are known carriers of deadly neurological and respiratory diseases like lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) and Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. Ticks, mites and fleas can feed on infected rodents and transmit diseases like pox, plague and typhus indirectly to humans—putting not only employees in your facility at risk, but also customers.

Rodents can be tough to control and are very adaptable at living indoors. Some mice that take shelter inside due to weather can survive indefinitely as indoor mice. In fact, there is a possibility rodents may have already taken shelter by now, so it’s important to talk with your pest management professional about common areas where rodents may be hiding.

As you winterize your facility, it’s important to keep rodents and other pests in mind. A proactive approach to facility maintenance, as well as an effective Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, can help keep pests out and your food product and business secure.

The following tips will help keep your facility off pests’ radars this winter.

Stay Vigilant in Monitoring for Pest Activity

Vigilant, ongoing monitoring is a cornerstone of an effective IPM program. With this strategy in place, there are many tactics you and your staff can use.

  • Identify “hot spots”. Work closely with your pest management professional to identify the most common places pests reside in around your property. These can include loading docks, utility rooms, employee break rooms, dumpsters and trash cans, storage rooms and behind any heavy, immobile pieces of equipment. By identifying these hot spots, you’ll be able to prevent pests from entering your facility.
  • Involve your employees. Educate your staff on the pests themselves, as well as the conditions that attract them, and encourage your employees to report any signs of problems. Utilize a reputable pest management company to provide your employees with this training—many providers offer training at no extra cost.
Look for gaps and fill them to keep those pesky critters out!
Look for gaps and fill them to keep those pesky critters out!

Strengthen Your Facility’s Perimeter

While certain pests can hitch a ride into your facility via shipments and even on people, the biggest pest threats start on the outside. With this in mind, you can take fight pests outside by strengthening your perimeter.

  • Look for and fill cracks and crevices. Crawling pests like to creep inside through small openings. Additionally, rodents can squeeze through holes the size of a quarter, mice through dime-sized openings that create gaps barely noticeable to the human eye. Regularly inspect the exterior of your facility for any cracks that may develop and pay close attention to openings that can form around pipes and utility penetrations. Don’t forget to seal any holes in exterior walls with water-resistant sealant and steel or metal mesh.
  • Eliminate clutter and attractants. Rodents may burrow or live up to 100 yards away from your structure, and flies, ants and cockroaches are also on the hunt for easy meals that can often be found on the property. Keep trash handling areas free of clutter, and clean up any uncovered garbage or standing water outside. Also, work with your waste management company to ensure they clean and switch out dumpsters regularly.
  • Keep landscaping off your building. Pests will often use vegetation as staging and feeding sites.  Keep trees trimmed and plants at least 12 inches from your building, and remove leaves quickly so pests cannot use them for cover. As an extra step, consider installing a two-foot wide gravel strip around the perimeter of the building. Think of these exclusion techniques as digging a moat around your castle.
  • For rodents, bait stations can be set outside. Work with your pest management provider to place tamper-resistant bait stations around the exterior of the facility. However, do not place the stations near doors or entryways, as they can attract pests into the facility. Be sure to maintain an up-to-date map of bait stations and record activity at each station to determine the source of rodent pressure and target future treatments accordingly.
Prevent fruit flies by keeping employee break rooms clear of food remnants and tightly sealing garbage cans.
Prevent fruit flies by keeping employee break rooms clear of food remnants and tightly sealing garbage cans.

Reinforce Clean Conditions Inside

Once you set up an outside defense against pests, you can double down on your pest management efforts by taking a few proactive measures inside as well. The key to keeping pests from infesting your facility is removing incentives for them to go inside in the first place.

  • Inspect incoming shipments. When you are not receiving materials, keep loading bay doors closed—make sure the doors close securely so that pests cannot sneak under them. Inspect incoming raw materials, packaging and truck trailers for signs of infestation.
  • Reduce potential food sources inside your facility. Employee break rooms should be clear of any food remnants, and garbage cans with food and other waste need to be kept tightly sealed.
  • Monitor the plant floor. Sanitize drains and equipment with an organic cleaner to eliminate the residue that pests can feed on. With colder temperatures, pipes can break or crack, so ensure plumbing is also maintained properly to prevent leakage and property damage. Monitor for spills and clean them immediately, as pests only need a small amount of moisture to survive.

By putting proactive defenses into place, your facility can enjoy the winter seasons with a decreased likelihood of the appearance of unwanted visitors like rodents, ants, cockroaches, stored product pests and flies. Talk with your pest management professional about these steps and other tactics you can put in place to keep your facility safe against overwintering pests and relegate them to the cold.

Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Director of Technical Services, Orkin, LLC
Bug Bytes

Make Employee Training a Team Effort in Your Pest Management Program

By Ron Harrison, Ph.D.
1 Comment
Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Director of Technical Services, Orkin, LLC

Pest management plays a key role in food safety and product integrity, and ensuring such is a critical, facility-wide undertaking. The success of a pest management program can be the difference between acing a third-party audit and facing a plant shutdown. An effective program is not just a one-person job; it requires an ongoing team effort from a company’s pest management provider and all employees. As such, beyond selecting an effective pest management provider, it’s equally important to recruit employees to help enhance your efforts. After all, they are the eyes and ears of your facility, as they spend a lot more time there than your pest management provider.

Arming your employees with the right tools and pest control knowledge will set up your pest management program for success. The following steps outline how you can get your entire team involved in your company’s program.

Teach the what, where and how

Your employees can be the first responders to any pest problems, but only if they know what they should be looking for and where they should be looking. For that reason, it’s essential that they complete training on the specific pest pressures your property faces and the red flags that alert them to pest activity.

Many pest control providers offer complimentary employee training, so ask your pest management professional to conduct an on-site training session for your team. These training sessions should include not only information about the specific pest pressures on your property, but also the conducive conditions and pest hot spots that your employees can help control. Pest hot spots are the key areas inside and outside your building that pests target as entry or harborage points. These areas are in constant danger of being penetrated by pests and are areas that currently or have previously had pest issues. Areas with standing water, excessive condensation or improper drainage are just a few examples.

Your pest management professional can also teach your employees the key components of integrated pest management (IPM). Rather than reacting to pest issues, IPM takes a proactive approach through a combination of non-chemical solutions, relying on chemical treatments only as a last resort. Proper sanitation practices, ongoing property maintenance to exclude pests, and regular monitoring are paramount to a pest-free facility.

Training sessions are also a great way for your employees and provider to build a strong relationship so your team is more likely to proactively report any pest issues.

Keep the lines of communication open

An open, ongoing line of communication between management, employees and your pest management provider is also an important component of successful pest management programs. Regular communication helps ensure that your employees are kept in the loop on important pest control information and initiatives. Furthermore, an open line of communication will keep you thinking proactively about pest management, which can help reduce decisions that lead to reactive chemical treatments.

This open dialogue will also help build rapport with your employees so they are more comfortable talking about sensitive issues, including the potential for bringing pests into the facility from home. 

Know your role

Your pest management program will work best when everyone involved knows his or her role. Consider assigning each team member a specific pest management task based on his or her daily duties. For instance, employees involved in facility maintenance can monitor for small holes or gaps in the building façade and seal them immediately to help prevent pest entry. 

 

In case of a pest sighting

Sometimes no matter how effective your IPM program is, resilient pests can still find their way inside your facility. Further, pest activity may not only originate locally, but from other parts of the country throughout the supply chain, making it somewhat difficult to immediately pinpoint the pest issue. This means there is a chance for both live and dead pests to make their way into your product, which can pose a nationwide health and safety threats to consumers.

With this in mind, it’s important to have a plan in place should a pest be spotted. Establish a pest sighting protocol that identifies the steps to report a pest incident, including who should be notified. The following are a few examples of steps that should be included in a pest sighting protocol:

  • If possible, catch and show the pest to your pest management professional.
  • Record the pest activity in a pest sighting report, making note of when, where and how many pests were seen.
  • Work with your pest management professional to determine what is causing the issue and how to resolve it.

Continue the education

Your employees need continued education to help keep your property on the cutting edge of pest control. Many pest management providers offer educational resources that facilities can use as ongoing education, including tip sheets, sanitation and maintenance checklists, and seasonal pest management tips. Ask your pest management provider if they have resources you can share with your team. You may also consider having your pest management professional provide further training sessions on specific pest problems.

Pest control is most successful when a team effort is involved. Work with your pest management provider to get your employees up to speed on the pest management efforts at your facility and ensure they have the basic knowledge needed to play a role in keeping pests out.

Dr. Jim Fredericks, Chief Entomologist & Vice President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs, National Pest Management Association
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Why is Pest Management Critical to Food Manufacturing Operations

By Dr. Jim Fredericks
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Dr. Jim Fredericks, Chief Entomologist & Vice President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs, National Pest Management Association

Every manager of a food manufacturing plant knows that food safety cannot be compromised under any circumstances and that the entire process is dependent on a number of aspects working effectively, efficiently and in a healthy and safe manner. However, no process is foolproof and any breakdown in the manufacturing process could lead to contamination. Some of the most pervasive contaminants come as a result of insects, rodents and other pathogens finding their way into the plant. It is for this reason that pest management is critical to food manufacturing.

Depending on the type of food product and how it is processed, there are ample opportunities for pests to associate themselves into the food manufacturing life cycle – be it during the growth cycle, at harvest, within the mode of transportation, during material preparation and final processing.

Fortunately, today’s scientific equipment provides the ability to detect amounts of contaminated materials in a given finished product down to the nanogram and “zero” continues to get smaller and smaller with each advancement in chemical [contaminate] detection technology. However, as plant science and seed chemistry improve, so does yield production. With this production increase comes additional processes that create opportunity for pest threats to enter food-manufacturing operations. In order to maintain a safe and clean facility both the food manufacturing facility manager and pest management personnel must address each issue head on.

There are a number of factors that pose challenges to proper pest management in food facilities such as the time of operation [some pests prefer daytime, while others prefer nighttime], production cycles [season of harvest can denote degree of pest infestation], maintenance schedule [how often do lines or plants shut down for cleaning and up keep], delivery schedule and flow of raw materials [when and how they enter and leave] throughout the plant. The addition of other factors, like moisture levels and temperature extremes within the construction elements of the plant, can create ideal conditions for pest harborage and nesting areas.

The world is a smaller place today and food transportation can be accomplished by multiple sources; food products are now shared across borders and oceans in a much shorter time frame than before. Due to the potential introduction of a new pest species or plant disease, it is crucial that facilities and their pest management partners develop a common platform for risk assessment, analysis and preventive controls to achieve success. Having the ability, discipline and quality control processes in place to intercept or disrupt this potential hazard are extremely important. The pest management professional is a line of defense that supports the food manufactures by inspecting, performing audits, identifying and preventing, improving and correcting hazards or situations that could cause damage, contamination or illness.

The consequences of not taking pest management seriously can be devastating to a food manufacturing company – resulting in fines, production shutdowns, closures and even bankruptcy filings. Not to mention a tarnished reputation, shaken confidence and public scrutiny of the brand and finished product. Certain failures may even create a system wide product recall compounding the negative effects.

The words ‘and’, ‘team’, ‘partner’ and ‘critical’ to describe the approach of a pest management professional and food manufacturing facility management and are key in understanding the role each plays – one to cut the risks and the other to protect, both helping each other accomplish the desired level of food safety.

Being proactive about food safety, including pest management, is paramount in protecting life and health. In the food safety industry food manufacturers work with a lot of different standards, protocols and regulations, such as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HAACP). The standards are risk-based in order to address the issues as risks to public health and food safety due to activities of pests.

FDA is trying to level the playing field on food safety with the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – the biggest change to food safety laws since the 1930’s – helping to bring together the various practices and governing agencies under a common goal – preventing food borne illness with sustainable and accountable improvements in food safety using prevention based controls.

As part of FSMA compliance, the pest management professional must be an integrated member of the food safety team. Thorough knowledge of the plant’s quality programs, manufacturing practices, approved product lists and sanitation programs is critical to success. Both pest management professionals and food manufacturing operations managers should also be aware of new pest control products and application techniques to fully offer the facility the best pest management program possible.

In all food manufacturing facilities, the pest management professional and manufacturing operations facility manager should both be prepared to:

  1. Work together with open communication.
  2. Provide training to both sides, whereas the plant team trains the pest management professional on the facility and processes with expectations of the service agreed upon. The pest management professional trains the food manufacturing team on basic pest management and where this fits into their food safety program and HACCP system.
  3. Set written expectations of services, treatments as well as a process for proper documentation. Utilize an appropriate accountability system of mapping and numbering all points of inspection, monitoring and treatment.
  4. Both parties should remain open to conversation regarding new and innovative techniques and treatment options that utilize the preventive intent of FSMA in conjunction with the concept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

The bottom line is that foodborne illness is largely preventable if everyone can be held responsible and accountable at each step they own for controlling hazards that can cause illness.