As the applications of connected devices continues to drive innovation and create exciting possibilities throughout the food processing industry, the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) on pest management in the food supply chain is already easy to recognize. An ecosystem of connected devices streamlines several processes that are integral to an effective integrated pest management plan, providing convenience and saving time for both food manufacturers and their pest management partners. From creating a smart network of devices that detect changes and track movement in the pest population to seamless reporting procedures that cut down on paperwork, we’re already seeing the benefits of a more connected world on a very important aspect of food safety.
Judy Black will host a free webinar, along with her colleague Jeff Robbins, director of commercial pest marketing, on the applications of IoT in pest management throughout the food supply chain on Wednesday, Aug. 9 at 1:00 pm ET/10:00 am PT. Register hereAt the ground level—often quite literally—we have networked traps for pests ranging from stored product insects to rodents. Each trap tracks the pests it captures and reports its readings to a central hub in real time, providing an instant snapshot of changes in the pest population and triggering notifications when that population exceeds pre-set parameters—well before the pests create an issue. Beyond knowing when a pest population increases in a facility, this network of connected monitoring devices can pinpoint where those pests are congregating, allowing the facility’s pest management partner to identify and eliminate the source of the issue quickly.
Beyond those devices on the front lines, the IoT also has a major impact on the behind-the-scenes management of pest management processes. With the increase in reporting requirements brought on by the adoption of FSMA earlier in the decade came a lot of new paperwork for food manufacturers. On the pest management front, the paper trail required to track the steps taken to reduce the risk of pest infestation represents a significant commitment of time and effort on the part of facility managers. Working with a pest management partner that understands the opportunities connected devices provide means less paperwork; a centralized online hub allows facility managers to review their partner’s recommendations, indicate the steps they’ve taken to address issues and close the loop without having to touch a file cabinet.
The availability of this pest-tracking data allows forward-thinking pest management companies to be more efficient and better informed. By compiling and analyzing this data, they can identify regional trends in pest populations, allowing them to be better prepared to recognize and resolve pest issues early and to stay ahead of cyclical fluctuations in the pest population.
We often talk about technology in terms of the impact it will have in the future, but in the pest management business, we’re already seeing the benefits of a connected ecosystem of devices. While the technology will continue to evolve and improve, it’s important for food manufacturers to recognize the benefits of working with a pest management partner that embraces the IoT. By streamlining and centralizing the processes of monitoring and reporting on pest management practices, this technology saves time and reduces the risks pests pose throughout the food supply chain.
It’s no surprise that food manufacturing and processing environments are naturally vulnerable to food safety threats. Food processing environments have all the things a pest needs to thrive: Food, water and shelter. And if poor sanitation is added to the mix, pests can find your food processing plant absolutely irresistible.
An unkempt facility can attract flies, ants, cockroaches and other unwanted common pests such as rodents. All of these common pests could put you or your facility at risk during your next audit.
The good news is pest-related sanitation issues are preventable through proactive and holistic preventive treatment plans. It’s important to establish proper sanitation processes and procedures so that over time, you avoid or reduce the occurrence of pest problems that could cost you major points on an audit and potentially compromise your products.
Many food processing facilities employ integrated pest management (IPM), an approach that helps prevent pest activity before it occurs and uses chemical treatments only as a last resort. The goal with these types of treatments is to give facility managers tools to use in advance of their next audit to stay ahead of pests, to teach employees good practices and to avoid problems before they happen. A good IPM program includes careful documentation of pest issues and the conducive conditions relating to them, as well as any corrective actions taken to resolve them. This documentation is incredibly important not just in solving pest problems, but also in its relevance to FSMA regulations.
When talking to pest management providers, remember that a “one-size fits all” strategy often doesn’t work, so expect your pest control company to recommend a customized plan. Different environments have different “hot spots” (areas where pests typically are present if the conditions are right) and face different pest pressures. However, there are a few key best practices that can be applied to any facility to help protect against pests.
The following guidelines will help to minimize pest activity and prepare for your facility’s next audit.
1. Educate and Enlist Your Employees in the Fight Against Pests
The first step to establishing your sanitation plan is enlisting your staff. One of the strongest building blocks in your defense against pest activity is sanitation. This key component of your IPM plan begins with the vigilance of your employees. Sanitation and pest management aren’t one-and-done tasks. They’re ongoing and you’ll get the best results when the entire staff is on board.
How can they help? Your employees are often the first to notice any potential signs of existing problems, so it’s important to educate them on hot spots where pests could live, what signs they should look for, and what to do if they see a pest issue. Once your employees understand the importance of sanitation, set a zero-tolerance policy for spills, debris and waste. If employees spot a pest, make sure they understand the protocols for documenting its presence. Consider implementing daily, weekly and monthly sanitation routines in addition to an annual deep cleaning.
Finally, enlist your employees to help keep common areas clean, from break rooms to locker rooms. Establish processes to clean up dirty dishes and drink spills, and empty full trash bins immediately. Don’t forget about cleaning the bins themselves! Also, make sure that common refrigerators aren’t filled with past-expiration lunches or snacks. If you’re finding it tough to get employees to participate, most pest management providers will offer a free education program to make employees aware of potential risks and what they can do to help. Sometimes it can help employees to hear from the experts.
2. What’s on the Inside Counts
As the saying goes, what’s on the inside really matters. This is true for the interior sanitation of your processing facility, too. There are a few particularly vulnerable hotspots to be conscious of when putting together your sanitation plan, especially the production floor, the storage areas and the receiving areas.
For obvious reasons, the production floor is one of the most important areas of focus for your sanitation program. Any hygiene issue could directly impact and expose your food products to contamination. Pests love to make their homes in big equipment that is often difficult to access for cleaning. Improper sanitation may lead to bacteria growth on the production line, which poses a major food safety threat. Create a schedule so that all equipment and machinery are sanitized regularly, and don’t forget about paying extra attention to those out-of-sight areas.
Drain flies and other pests live around drains and drain lids. Both should be scrubbed and sanitized regularly to prevent buildup of grease and other gunk that can attract pests. Organic, professional cleaning solutions are a great option to break down tough stains and grime on floors and around drains. These organic cleaners use naturally occurring enzymes and beneficial bacteria to degrade stains, grime and other organic matter build up, which helps reduce the likelihood of drain flies and other pests.
Storage areas are also prone to attracting pests and the potential bacteria they harbor. These cluttered spaces can get filled with extra boxes and other debris, and are perfect locations for pests to hide. Keep these areas clean and clear of clutter so pests have fewer areas to seek shelter and reproduce.
Cockroaches especially love cardboard boxes, so take those to recycling facilities regularly. Remove any equipment that is not being used. If you have re-sealable containers, clean out all the containers before placing new products inside. All containers should be tightly sealed and kept six inches off the floor and 18 inches away from walls. You can also affix mops and other types of cleaning equipment to the wall. Keeping them off the ground will keep them dry and prevent them from sitting in standing water, which is a major hot spot for fly breeding and bacteria build up.
Don’t forget that pests are experts at squeezing under receiving doors and sneaking onto shipments. To prevent unwanted stowaways, ensure your exterior doors form a tight seal when closed and always give delivery trucks and incoming shipments a thorough inspection for pest activity. Pests love to sneak into any opening they can find, so keep building exits, loading docks and other entrances closed as much as possible. Install weather stripping and door sweeps to keep pests out by creating a tight seal around openings. Believe it or not, rats can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter, mice through a gap the size of a dime, and crawling insect pests through spaces barely noticeable to the human eye. For other cracks and crevices, use weather-resistant sealants to close any openings and consider installing metal mesh for an extra layer of protection against rodents that can gnaw openings to get inside.
3. Don’t Forget the Great Outdoors
To keep your exterior spic and span, create and maintain a regular sanitation schedule for your building’s exterior so it doesn’t become a haven for pests.
Regular pressure washings of sidewalks and walls will knock away any debris or build-up on exterior surfaces and could help remove any bird droppings around the property that could be brought inside by foot traffic. While it seems like a no-brainer, keep dumpsters and recycling collections as far away from facilities as possible, and make sure they are cleaned and sanitized frequently. And like interior cleaning best practices, don’t neglect areas above or out of the line of sight like gutters and rooftop ledges. Sometimes, leaves, standing water and other debris can build up over time, which provides breeding areas and shelter for pests—especially mosquitoes.
Did you know that flies are not just attracted to food processing facilities because of food smells, but also for their exterior lighting? Flies and other flying insects are attracted to light and may use it for orientation. Mercury-vapor lighting is especially attractive to flies, so consider swapping mercury-vapor lamps next to entryways with sodium-vapor lights or LEDs. And to lure flies away from your building, place your facility’s mercury-vapor lighting at least 100 feet from entrances. It is often important to remember that the best option is always to direct lighting towards a building rather than mount lighting on it.
Good outdoor pest maintenance also includes landscaping. Trim your trees often and keep plants at least 12 inches away from your building. This decreases the chance of pests using vegetation as breeding or nesting grounds and the chances they’ll get access to your facility. Standing water often becomes a breeding site and moisture source that could provide pests like flies, mosquitoes and rodents with water necessary for survival. Remove any standing water around your building to prevent this and remove any reason for those pests to stick around. Look for stagnant water in gutters, ponds, birdbaths, water fountains and any other places that water could sit for more than a week without moving.
These proactive pest management tips will be useful in protecting your building and products from food safety threats. If there are any tasks that require additional help, consider talking to your pest management provider about creating an IPM plan. They will walk through your facility with you to identify any hotspots and suggest potential corrective actions—you’ll be glad you did when it’s time for your next audit.
Stored product insects (SPI) can cause a revenue loss of 1–9%, according to recent research by the Centre for Economic and Business Research. The following infographic outlines the impact SPIs can have, which are the world’s most expensive pests, according to Rentokil.
Being audit-ready at any moment can be a daunting task, but pest management is one aspect of your audit that you can ace if you’re doing the right things. Pest control can account for up to 20% of your score, so taking it seriously can give you a huge boost the next time an auditor comes to your facility.
There are two components needed to help ease the stress of a third-party audit: An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program and proper documentation.
IPM programs focus on incorporating green prevention and exclusion tactics into your facility’s ongoing sanitation and facility maintenance strategies, only using chemical solutions as a last resort. FSMA established that these tactics should be used when dealing with food safety issues and that thorough records should be kept to document the risk-based prevention efforts. This gives food manufacturing facilities even more of a reason to employ an IPM program.
A strong IPM program already has documentation built into it, as tracking pest activity and monitoring results over time are crucial steps to implementing the most effective pest prevention techniques for your business. Every IPM plan is tailored to your facility’s needs, so it needs to be dynamic and adaptable over time as new technologies emerge and your business needs change. Having the ability to show documentation of these changes and their positive effects will get you off to a great start on your next audit in showing your risk-based prevention food safety plan. If you do not already have an IPM program in place, speak with your pest management provider about establishing one.
Auditors like to see IPM programs in place because it means your business is taking a proactive approach and keeping detailed records.
Think about it like this: If the auditor is the judge and there’s no jury, would you ever walk into a court case without any evidence to prove your innocence? Of course not! So you wouldn’t want to walk into an audit without any documentation either.
In other words, document everything. Facilities must prepare and implement written food safety plans that identify potential risks to food safety, enumerate the steps and processes that will be executed to minimize or prevent those dangers, identify and implement monitoring procedures, keep detailed records of the food safety program, and list actions that will be taken to correct problems that do arise. If you’re doing all of this, you’ll make an auditor’s life that much simpler and improve the chances of receiving a high score.
When working to get audit-ready, you’ll want to have the following forms of documentation ready to go:
Proof of Training and Certification
Even though you know that your pest management professional is properly trained and certified, your auditor does not. Keep documentation on hand at your facility, as auditors may want to see one or more of the following documents:
A copy of the valid registration or certification document
hysical, written evidence that your pest management provider has been properly trained to use the materials necessary for your IPM program
Evidence of training on IPM and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs)
Proof of Service and Material Changes
A strong IPM program changes as new technologies emerge and your business’s needs shift over time, so be sure to have detailed documentation of these changes as they occur. It’s also important to note the reasons for making changes. Auditors will be looking for written documentation for even the smallest of changes to your IPM program, so take careful notes as your program adapts along with your business.
It can also help to assign specific roles to your employees. This not only will give employees clear direction on how they can contribute to your IPM program, but it can also help your case with an auditor by showing that your facility is maintained by an entire team rather than just a few people. Teamwork is a key part of any IPM program, so be prepared to show how your team runs effectively.
Pest Sighting Reports That Correspond with Corrective and Preventive Actions
When there is a pest sighting in your facility, record it immediately. Keeping records of sightings will help ensure that steps are taken to improve and show accountability to an auditor. Once action is taken, record exactly what was done and the results of the counteractive efforts. That way, you’ll have a paper trail that shows an auditor that for every pest problem, your pest management provider came up with a proactive pest solution that resolved—or is working to resolve—the issue.
After taking corrective action, continue monitoring the issue over time and note any developments in order to help prevent the issue from reoccurring. Creating a trend report that keeps track of which pests your facility is dealing with over time can help, too, as it will help you determine which pests are the most problematic. Your provider can help build such a report.
Records of Pest Monitoring Devices and Traps with Corrective Actions
Pest monitoring devices and traps are great for giving insight into areas around your facilities that are most susceptible to pests. Along with these devices, however, you’ll need to show the following information to an auditor:
When and how often the monitoring devices and traps were checked
The type and quantity of each pest found
Corrective actions taken to reduce pest activity and prevent further issues
Work with your pest management provider to gather all of this information, as it is usually the technician who works on these devices regularly. Being able to give an auditor the full picture can certainly help you on your inspection as it demonstrates attention to detail throughout your entire facility.
Annual Pest Management Assessments and Resulting Actions Taken
With most IPM programs, your pest management provider will thoroughly inspect your facility annually to identify areas that can be improved. Many auditors require these annual check-ups, and they will be looking for proof that these facility assessments occurred and that action was taken as a result that led to positive changes. Year-over-year improvement is important, so measure your success against the areas of improvement specified in these annual inspection reports. That way, you can meet the objectives prior to an audit.
These annual inspections give you a chance to look back and see the progression over the years. If there are any pest issues that pop up year after year, make them a priority in order to show that your program is trending in the right direction.
This proactive approach to pest management will help protect your business from pests and the inherent risks, as well as help give you a better chance of receiving an excellent score on your next audit.
So don’t be afraid of an audit the next time one comes around. With a strong IPM program in place and detailed documentation over the course of the year, there won’t be an exorbitant amount of preparation needed. Stay organized and keep all of the above-mentioned documents together and on-site to keep things simple for both you and your auditor. All of these elements will help your facility receive a strong score and be audit-ready at a moment’s notice.
When you choose a new vendor to partner with you, the decision is always important. Every vendor plays a role in your business and bottom line.
Some vendors, like pest control providers, can protect your brand and even help boost your reputation in the industry. When you factor in everything your pest control program can affect, it’s clear that picking the right pest management provider is one of the most important vendor decisions you’ll have to make.
Consider how pest management can impact your audit scores, especially when you’re expected to be audit-ready at any time. The success of your third-party audit hinges on documentation, and the pest management portion can make all the difference in your score, accounting for up to 20%. FSMA requires food processing facilities to execute proactive pest control programs and documentation efforts that not only follow and but also implement a risk-based prevention program to protect their product and consumer base. Just one low score can cause your customers to lose trust in your business—and if they pull their support, you could see a major impact on your balance sheet.
The safety of your products and even the health of your employees are also at stake. Cockroaches and ants can pick up and transfer harmful bacteria. Flies can spread disease-causing organisms when they land—and they land frequently, it can lead to them leaving their traces in an abundance of places.
Then there are rodents, which can also cause serious health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rats and mice are known to spread bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli, as well as more than 35 diseases worldwide, such as Hantavirus.
A Blueprint for Success
From its impact on audit scores to its role in abating health concerns to brand protection, pest control should be a priority for any food processing facility. There are several best practices to follow, most of them falling under the umbrella of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is the preferred proactive pest management practice in the food processing business, and it can help meet and exceed the requirements of industry auditors.
IPM programs are ongoing, comprehensive and well-documented, focusing on risk-based preventive strategies like sanitation and facility maintenance to help prevent pest activity. They’re also customizable based on your property and the pests you face.
It’s essential to find the right, licensed and experienced pest management professional who will partner with you and your staff to implement a customized IPM program for your facility and help keep pest problems away. When starting your search for a pest management partner, be sure to ask about IPM. One-size-fits-all pest management solutions are simply not effective, so look for a provider who can tailor an IPM program specifically to your needs.
When searching for a pest management partner, look for one that stands out with the following guidelines.
Talk to your peers. If you’re looking for pest management recommendations, start by talking to your industry colleagues about the successes—or challenges—they’ve had with their vendors. If you’re a member of a larger network or GPO, you may have a preferred provider in which to start your search.
Start with an inspection. Once you have a list of options to check out, it’s time to put them to the test. As IPM programs are customizable, insist that your prospects inspect your facility to determine the challenges you face and the services you need.
Get the details in writing. Remember, FSMA requires written risk-based preventive food safety plans that detail likely hazards, corrective actions and results. With this in mind, your pest management professional should thoroughly document any service visits and corrective actions.
Documenting your pest management plan does more than fulfill the FSMA requirement. The best pest management providers will document their every move, using the information to determine pest trends, which can aid in decisions about how to best manage pest activity going forward. These records should be kept on-site for any surprise audits.
Ask for audit help. In addition to documentation, your pest management professional should work with you to ensure all documents are in proper order and audit-ready at any time. Look for a provider that can help you prepare for the third-party auditor and food safety standards with which your facility is required to comply, and even provide on-site support the day of your audit.
Think about your entire staff. One of the most overlooked variables when choosing a pest management provider isn’t how the company works in your facility, it’s how it works with your staff. For your new pest management program to be effective, your staff has to buy in—and your new provider can help.
Your employees play an important role in reporting pest sightings and keeping your facility clean. With this in mind, make sure to ask about resources that your pest management professional can offer your staff. Many offer staff training and educational resources like tip sheets and checklists, and often at no extra cost.
Add accountability, establish thresholds. You may pick an outstanding pest management partner, but ideal results won’t happen overnight. Depending on your facility, creating a pest-free environment can be difficult, even with the best of help.
Progress is achievable and quantifiable when you have pest thresholds. Thresholds dictate how much and what kind of pest activity is acceptable before corrective actions need to be taken, and they are best set by working with your pest control professional because several factors can come into play.
Older facilities or buildings in environments more conducive to pest activity, such as areas near water, locales in warm environments or heavily wooded spaces, may face more pest pressures than newer establishments. Your pest management professional may want to counter these challenges with exclusion recommendations that can include extensive building maintenance and repairs.
If you’re in a newer building and don’t currently battle any present pest issues, it may be perfectly reasonable to move forward with a “one pest is one too many” threshold. To make sure your program stays this effective, your provider may need to adjust tactics of your IPM program over time.
Even with a sound IPM plan, however, if you are currently battling pests like cockroaches, flies or ants, reaching your threshold goals will take time. Work with your pest management provider to create a timeline for steady and reasonable improvement.
Once you choose a pest management partner, keep the lines of communication open and establish roles for everyone involved. Set benchmarks for your pest management program and specific times throughout the year to evaluate the program’s success and areas of improvement with your provider.
Keep all of this in mind, and you can help build a solid, long-lasting partnership. As a result, pest sightings can fall as your audit scores rise.
As with many areas in food safety, the future of pest management will place more emphasis on implementing a scientific approach and leveraging digital technologies. Food manufacturers and processors will rely more heavily on their pest management providers to be their eyes and ears to find issues within a facility that may have otherwise gone undetected and could lead to potential deadly outbreaks. “The pest control industry is always trying to control pests. But now the manufacturers are realizing that this [regulation] is pretty serious and people [could] go to jail,” says Ron Harrison, director of technical services at Orkin, LLC. “I think you’re going to find a much more scientific approach to pest control in food processing.” In a discussion with Food Safety Tech, Harrison shares insights on the changes (for the better) that FSMA is having on the relationship between pest management professionals and food manufacturers and processors.
Food Safety Tech: What are the biggest areas of concern surrounding FSMA and pest management? Are companies in the food industry prepared for compliance?
Ron Harrison: The big part about FSMA is that everything is now suspect in reference to food safety—from deliveries to storage to transportation on the backend; there’s a much more holistic approach. It has had a major impact on us—we’re doing more inspections on the front end, when the trucks [deliver] the raw ingredients, and we look for possible pests on the truck, rather than [inspecting] an isolated building.
The elevation has been that owners and managers realize that they’re going to be held responsible for potential food safety issues, and so they’re holding their pest professional at a much higher level to help be their eyes and spot potential problems to ensure compliance with safety issues. For example, take two situations that have come up in the last five years—the Peanut Corporation of America [Salmonella outbreak] and Blue Bell Ice Cream [Listeria outbreak]. In neither one of those cases were pests responsible for the problems. But questions came back to pest control professionals about why they weren’t making [the manufacturers] aware of leaking coming from the ceiling, etc. I think they’re looking for us to support their programs of food safety, not just ‘kill some cockroaches’ or prevent rodents from coming into [a facility]. Manufacturers are asking us to tell them what they’re doing wrong rather than us going back to them. I think there’s a better partnership moving forward.
The industry went from pulling out equipment and spraying [to control pests] to [the present] where it’s not uncommon for a microbiologist to take samples to find out not just if there’s a cockroach, but did it leave anything behind. I think you’re going to find the approach to pest control to be much more scientific.
FST: What digital technologies should food companies leverage as part of a proactive pest management plan?
Harrison: I think this is where the big future is. It’s how do we monitor just in time to provide service based upon that monitor. That’s futuristic looking. For bigger animals, we’re already moving in that direction: A relay goes off when the animal crosses a threshold, and a picture is taken that can be determined by movement and heat. But for the smaller creatures, like rodents and cockroaches, why isn’t there some type of monitoring system as well? From a monitoring and detection standpoint, we’re going to see a lot more technology that helps us very quickly assess what’s going on, which therefore will limit some of the robotic routine services that we do. That’s happening in Europe—it’s not uncommon to have monitors in place and as soon as something happens, you’re out there getting rid of [the pest] rather than putting traditional baits every 25 feet. If you think about it, wouldn’t it be much better that when the mouse is caught in the glue board that immediately a signal goes out and it’s removed rather than sitting there for five days until the pest control professional goes back and checks the device?
The person in charge of pest control wants to come into work and know exactly what’s going on: What pests were seen, what treatments were made, what the local manager is doing, etc. All of it needs to roll up into easy, accessible data. The data collection and reaction would be immediately downloaded every morning or evening when the shift is over. The demand is very clear for what the expectation is.
I’d say within the next year or two you’ll have a variety of companies providing these monitoring systems (inside and outside) to food processing plants.
With the heat of summer quickly upon us, food processors should take measures to keep their facilities free of pests that can both harm workers and lead to contamination.
Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, a time when we can look forward to more relaxing days sitting by the pool, just enjoying life. But the season also welcomes the unwelcome: more bugs and other little critters. It is during this time of year that food processers should be extra vigilant about inspecting their facilities to ensure that pests do not become a problem.
While small in size, mosquitoes can be big in nuisance. Ron Harrison, Ph.D., director of technical services at Orkin, LLC, offers a few steps that companies should take to prepare for the season to both protect workers from potentially serious disease transmission such as West Nile Virus or chikungunya virus, and keep mosquitoes from contaminating a food processing facility.
1. Inspection. Conduct a thorough survey of the perimeter or outside of your building. Have your pest control professional or entomologist look for the presence of natural breeding sites and how they can be eliminated. For example, if there is standing water, how can it be drained? Can it be moved as opposed to remain standing? Growth regulators can also be used to inhibit the developing larvae.
2. Secure your building. Make sure all screens are in place and that your heating and air system is in proper working order. Check the pressure of your building. If you have positive air pressure with a door open, it pushes air out; if you have negative air pressure, it sucks air in, so a mosquito or any type of bug could be sitting on the outside and get sucked inside.
3. Use residual products. Mosquitos can be blown in from long distances. Using good residual products on vegetation and shrubs on the outside of your building can help reduce the population. In addition, make sure any dense landscaping is pruned to reduce the harboring sites where mosquitoes might live.
Harrison adds that the prevalence of mosquitos tends to be worse based on the location of a facility. This is where making sure your building is tightly sealed, from the cracks to the positive air pressure in entranceways, is important. “The biggest reason we struggle is that the building or processing plant is built in a swampy area, which is a haven for bugs,” he says. Other factors, including the color of the building (light-colored buildings) and the presence of excessive lighting, can attract more insects.
Now is the time for food processing facility managers to take action and inspect their facility. “Mosquitos are just now starting. In another two or three weeks, it’s going to get serious,” says Harrison. “Preventative activity means that later on in the season when they are bad, your processing plant won’t have problems because you took proactive steps.”
Restaurants can face major risks related to pest activity, which is why a proper Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program must be in place. However, restaurant owners are not the only ones who should play a part in the IPM program; employees should participate as well.
Often times, live pests are sighted in restaurants, which can result in immediate consequences to a restaurant owner’s bottom line. Therefore, restaurant employees should be trained on how to prevent and react to pest sightings in their establishment.
The following tips will help restaurateurs get their employees on board with pest management:
Contact a pest management professional for a complimentary on-site employee training that will teach employees the importance of pest management and how it could affect the diners’ experience.
Diners have zero tolerance for pests. Ensure employees know the protocol for pest sightings, which should include:
Catching the pest for identification
Recording when, where and how many pests were seen
Assisting your pest management professional to determine the method of treatment.
The most productive way to keep all employees involved in pest management is to add one or two pest control responsibilities to their daily routine. These responsibilities should align with employees’ roles and can be as simple as regularly emptying trash cans and re-lining them, or clearing and sweeping food debris.
In common employee areas, post educational materials such as sanitation checklists and pest identification sheets that provide information on common pests and potential health threats.
Establish an open line of communication that encourages all employees to report pests immediately. Remember that employees can bring pests into the restaurant on their belongings from home, so it’s important that they know pest sighting reports are encouraged to prevent pest activity in areas such as break rooms, the kitchen or the dining area. Fostering an open line of communication will help restaurateurs get ahead of any pest issues and related health and safety threats.
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.
It can be frustrating to consumers to discover some rotten fruits or not-so-fresh vegetables in their grocery packs in spite of due diligence at the stores. It also leaves a bad taste in the mouth while in your favorite restaurant, you’re served cold food, observe that the taste is just not right, the color of your favorite menu is not the same again or become suspicious that the food texture has been compromised and it doesn’t feel crispy or crunchy any more.
These are the tell-tale signs of food spoilage that customers are confronted with on a daily basis. In foodservice and retail environments, food spoilage constitutes a major food safety and food quality hazard with far reaching regulatory implications as well as being an economic burden with considerable food loss and profit loss. Food manufacturers and processors have achieved a high level of food preservation through several advanced technologies including heat treatment, temperature and water control, pasteurization and canning, specialized packaging like reduced oxygen packaging, fermentation and antimicrobial preservatives. However, food spoilage remains a major challenge in retail and food service. This is mostly as a result of the many food processing and preparation activities, food storage practices, repackaging and food portioning that are required in retail.
In addition, the modern consumers’ preference for fresh foods and the backlash on the use of unnatural preservatives leave foods more vulnerable to spoilage resulting in substantial food loss. Here, we discuss some of the challenges of food spoilage and how to minimize its impact on food safety, quality assurance and profitability in retail food operations.
The most important proactive measure against food spoilage is a tight managerial control on Supplier Food Safety and Quality Assurance. The condition of the food items upon delivery to the retail units will impact the overall shelf life, taste, texture, structural integrity and pathogen level during storage and food preparation activities. Food transportation best practices, cold chain requirements, temperature monitoring system, freeze-thaw detection, appropriate packaging, adulteration prevention and food tracking should be addressed at the supplier level to ensure that deliveries are wholesome safe quality foods. Integrated pest management at suppliers’ facilities and delivery trucks are also essential. Random testing of food products for pathogen content and quality control will assist in compliance with FDA/USDA regulations and internal corporate standards.Thus, a comprehensive evaluation and verification of the supplier food safety and quality assurance programs will help to ensure compliance with all relevant federal/State/local regulations (see previous blog on Supplier Qualification and Compliance using GFSI Benchmarking).
After suppliers deliver safe quality foods, in-store food safety and quality assurance control measures must be activated immediately to maintain safe quality food status until food is served to the customer.
At the retail units, appropriate food handling and storage practices to eliminate cross-contamination is key.
The use of rapid cleanliness monitoring test swabs to validate clean and sanitary food contact surfaces will enable timely corrective actions that would eliminate potentially hazardous food cross-contamination.
Proper hand hygiene by all foodservice employees should be mandatory.
Keeping cold food cold and warm food warm is a food safety mantra that ensures foods don’t get to the temperature danger zone. Temperature monitoring systems for freezers and refrigerators using wireless technologies will ensure a better food storage control even during non-business hours.
Emergency preparedness training for natural disasters and power outages should be in place to avoid surprises.
Compliance with FDA regulations for safe refrigerated storage, hot holding, cooling and reheating of food within the time and temperature criteria will help eliminate spoilage organisms and preserve the taste, texture and overall quality of food throughout its shelf life, especially for meat and poultry products.
Proper management of products’ shelf life, expiration dates and observing the principle of first in first out (FIFO) should be encouraged. In fact, the food code requires a system for identifying the date or day by which food must be consumed, sold or discarded. Product date marking enables compliance with this food code requirement to date mark all prepared food products, and to demonstrate a procedure that ensures proper discarding of food products on or before the date of expiration. Local health inspectors reference these product date marking labels and enforce them, in addition to food prep activities that may lead to cross-contamination, adulteration or spoilage. Inventory control, forecasting and Lean Six Sigma are important tools for managing food supplies, storage, preparation, stock replenishing and elimination of excess food items that may get past their shelf life.
Raw proteins (meat, sea food and poultry) are arguably the largest cross-contamination sources for pathogens in foodservice. Any novel pathogen reduction or elimination process like the potential production of pathogen-free chicken would be a welcome relief, and will not only save money and labor; it would protect the public health as well.
Produce (fruits and vegetables) remains the largest source of foodborne illness outbreaks in United States, because it’s a ready-to-eat food that doesn’t get the benefit of cooking at high sterilizing temperatures. An effective pathogen kill step for produce using consumer-friendly natural washes like electrolyzed water may serve as a gate keeper in case the safety system fails at the plant level. Ice-cold electrolyzed water is also known to refresh produce and may extend their shelf life as well.
GMO-food products could be engineered to resist pests and spoilage organisms with improved shelf life, but its general acceptability and the FDA labeling disclosure requirements are still contentious issues.
While industry is racing to develop several promising anti-spoilage technologies, active managerial control of the various components of an effective food safety and quality assurance system remains the best practice against food spoilage and associated food losses in retail food operations.