Pest Control (PC) companies have become so good at controlling insects, birds, rodents, and other pests that facility oversight of pest management programs often falls by the wayside. This neglect can cause huge issues when pest management plans are dusted off by an auditor or inspector or when there is an unexpected infestation. Here are a few, easy methods to help you improve your Pest Control Program and validate the efforts of your third-party PC provider.
Validating Facility Pest Maps
A common PC program nonconformance involves discrepancies to the Facility Pest Map. The number and placement of internal tin cat traps, fly lights, external bait stations, pheromone traps, etc. can become inaccurate over time. Ask your PC provider to update your map at least annually or when there are major changes. Small changes can be written on the map if they are dated and initialed. When a new version of the map is released, select someone to validate it by physically walking around the facility, checking the placard number and placement of the traps to the map, and making note of any discrepancies.
It’s also a good idea to periodically walk the map throughout the year to ensure that these devices haven’t been damaged. We all know how much forklifts love to crush tin cats, and these traps always seem to get moved around (used to prop open door or knocked out of the way). Different sections could be added to a monthly GMP internal audit to ensure the entire facility and surrounding grounds are covered.
Analyze Service Reports and Trends
It’s amazing how often Pest Control Service Reports are generated and fall into the black hole that is the Pest Control book. Sometimes they are signed by a facility representative, but how often is that person paying attention to the report’s contents to really understand the facility’s vulnerabilities? Many PC providers include observations on conditions that could lead to a pest control issue, suggestions for corrective actions, and other valuable advice for improvement. How often are these words heeded? Often pest control nonconformances discovered in audits and inspections were previously identified by a PC provider. Someone at the facility should be periodically analyzing these service reports to extract this information and act upon any necessary corrective actions. The designated employee can set themselves a calendar reminder to perform this task on a monthly or quarterly basis, remembering to document any corrective actions.
In addition to service reports, many PC providers also provide trending information, which summarizes pest activity over time. Many facilities don’t understand how valuable this information can be. For example, looking at rodent activity (gnaw marks on the bait) of your external bait stations can help identify the locations in your grounds with the most rodent activity. Some rodent activity is expected, but if it’s excessive, there could be a root cause that can be improved. For example, there may be a harborage point or perhaps the grass in the back field should be mowed more frequently in the summer or you may identify areas where additional bait stations are needed.
Leveraging Pest Control Provider Expertise
Many PC providers have entomologists and other pest experts on staff that can conduct an initial vulnerability assessment, which is normally revised annually, to customize the PC program and better protect the facility. These individuals can also be utilized to troubleshoot infestations. Once the type of pest is identified, specific corrective actions can be implemented to eradicate the infestation and preventive actions carried out to prevent a reoccurrence. For example, if birds are a problem around the shipping docks, nets might be used to reduce access to the rafters for nesting birds, or random sirens might be used to scare away migratory birds. For insect infestations, different chemicals (and the application of those chemicals) might be used to maximize remediation.
At a minimum, PC providers should be providing you with a PC book which contains: a current facility map, regular service reports, current licenses for all PC technicians, and the Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals that might be used inside your facility.
Better Utilize the Pest Sighting Log
All PC programs use a Sighting Log in which any pest observations made between PC technician visits can be identified and acted upon. Too often, this log is hidden in the PC book and only used by a designated facility representative. There might be an understanding that sightings observed by other employees are reported to QA, so they can log the sighting. Sometimes this procedure works, but it’s often disrupted and the PC technician doesn’t receive this valuable information. How many issues could be prevented by identifying the problem early?
A solution is to post a copy of the Pest Sighting Log in the employee breakroom and direct the PC technician to check it during services. Train all employees of the purpose and location of this log, and empower them to report any issues. Employees have a vested interest in preventing pest infestations in their workplace, so you might be surprised how successful this simple change can be.
Pest Control Program Innovations
PC programs haven’t changed much in the last few decades. PC providers use technicians to make regularly scheduled visits to maintain pest control devices and apply chemicals when needed. For large facilities, this can be an arduous practice involving hours or even days of work. In the past few years, there have been significant efforts to automize these efforts, allowing remote monitoring of PC devices. Most of the larger PC providers have been working towards this technology and a few now these devices commercially available.
There are some clear benefits to remote monitoring. It gives PC technicians more time to investigate potential issues instead of checking empty traps. Also, remote activity notifications can lead to earlier action, which can prevent mild issues from turning into full-blown infestations. These devices can also be used in hard-to-reach places, such as a narrow void in the ceiling. There are still some concerns with this technology; it’s much more expensive than traditional devices and an automated system could lead to complacency.
While we wait for the technology to become perfected, there are many small changes that can make immediate improvements to your PC program. Validate your program to better understand vulnerabilities, analyze service reports and trends to identify emerging issues, and leverage the resources (pest experts and internal employees) already available to maximize efforts and strengthen your PC program.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of hundreds of restaurants, food processors and other businesses nationwide. As weeks went on, increased rodent activity plagued many businesses, some of which has been attributed to a change in food sources and availability—so much so that the CDC released a warning about rodent control in restaurants and other commercial businesses that have either been closed or have had limited service during the pandemic. “Environmental health and rodent control programs may see an increase in service requests related to rodents and reports of unusual or aggressive rodent behavior,” the CDC stated last month.
As the American economy reopens, many food establishments and facilities must consider three key points that will affect pest management during this time:
- Pest pressure continues. Rodents are on a never-ending search for food, water and harborage.
- Change in business patterns. Different inbound and outbound shipments; changes in employee shifts and production schedules; new supply chain partners.
- Service provider access. Access to facilities and secure areas; changes in facility structure, equipment and storage
Factoring the many changes that COVID-19 has prompted, the role of pest management is more important than ever. We invite you to join us for Food Safety Tech’s upcoming complimentary virtual conference, “Integrated Pest Management: Protect Food Safety and Prevent the Spread of Pathogens”, on June 30. Our Technical Service Lead, Joe Barile, will discuss pest management and risk mitigation in the COVID-19 world; he will be followed by Orkin’s VP of Quality Assurance and Technical Services, Judy Black, on the key components to successful IPM and pest management programs, and Angela Anandappa, Ph.D. of the Alliance for Advanced Sanitation on how an effective sanitation program can protect against pest and food contamination. Register now.
As food processors and retailers work tirelessly to feed the public during the current global health pandemic, pests continue to work overtime to keep their food supply on track. Filth flies, cockroaches and rodents, in particular, pose a threat to the food supply chain, especially with concerns of the transmission of pathogens at an all-time high. The last thing your business needs is an avoidable food safety incident that threatens your reputation and bottom line.
When it comes to food safety, pathogen-spreading pests have no place in your facility and pose a major public health risk. Not only can these filthy pests become a nuisance within your facility, they can also contaminate your products and spread foodborne bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, which can cause illnesses.
Knowing what attracts these pests to your facility and the dangers they pose is important for effective removal. Let’s dive into the signs of cockroaches, filth flies and rodents, and the specific concerns they can cause.
Frank Meek will share his expertise during a complimentary webinar on March 4, “Making the Grade: Tips for Passing Food Safety Audits During the Pandemic” Cockroaches
Cockroaches seek four things that food processing facilities provide in abundance—food, shelter, proper temperatures and water. With the ability to squeeze through tiny gaps and cracks, these dirty pests enjoy crawling under equipment, in cabinets and through drains to find their next meal. Cockroaches can be found in and around almost any place within your facility. They’re capable of carrying harmful bacteria that they can spread from one location to another. Look out for droppings, cast skins or egg cases, which might signal a cockroach problem.
You may think these types of flies have no desire to be inside, but they are in fact happy to go wherever the conditions are right. The most common filth fly is the housefly. These winged pests can carry and spread more than 100 disease-causing pathogens including bacteria, fungi and viruses. These can cause illnesses such as cholera, dysentery and infantile diarrhea. Filth flies in your facility can lead to a major public health issue if your food becomes contaminated.
One of the filthiest pests around, rodents can contaminate your food supply, destroy or consume products and cause structural damage to your facility. Like cockroaches, mice and rats can fit through relatively small spaces to find food and water. With sightings on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll want to keep an eye out for rodents near your food products. These mighty chewers pose a public health threat as they can transmit diseases such as hantavirus and lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM) via their urine and droppings.
The presence of these vermin in your facility threatens public health. Additionally, an infestation can slow down the supply chain by causing businesses to recall contaminated foods.
A rigorous sanitation routine is one of the most effective ways to proactively manage pests like cockroaches, rodents and filth flies. Regularly sanitizing and disinfecting your facility can help eliminate any pathogens left behind on hard surfaces and remove the attractants for which they search. While cleaning removes dirt and buildup, sanitization and disinfection kill bacteria and pathogens, reducing the risk of a food safety issue.
Including the following tips in your cleaning routine can help keep your products and reputation safe from harm.
- Clean out drains routinely with an enzymatic cleaning solution that can break down the organic grime.
- Disinfect high-touch hard surfaces with a proper and low-toxicity disinfectant to kill bacteria and pathogens that can cause food illnesses.
- Move dumpsters away from your building to reduce flies being attracted to and then gaining easy entry into your facility.
- Wipe spills as soon as they occur to prevent them from becoming a sticky paradise for flies and cockroaches.
- Practice good hygiene in your work environment and ensure employees are washing their hands regularly and keeping break rooms free of trash and leftovers.
Implementing exclusion practices such as sealing cracks, gaps and holes in walls with a proper sealant can also help you keep pests out. Budget allowing, consider investing in insect light traps and mechanical traps to help reduce flying insects inside.
Communication with your suppliers and distributors is also important to ensure food safety. If your partners implement similar measures, you’re more likely to protect the public from harmful diseases. Furthermore, customers will continue to trust your business.
While following these tips can help reduce the chances of a pest infestation, it’s not always possible to keep pests and the pathogens they spread out of your food processing facility. Work with a trained pest control specialist to develop a customized prevention program for your business as each type of pest requires specific treatment. They can also help you schedule inspections to identify conditions in and around your facility that may attract flies, cockroaches and rodents, among other pests.
I know, it’s a disgusting, lazy attention-grabbing image, but if you’ve stayed with me this far it must have worked. Sadly, the story is true; it was back in the 1980s the first time that I heard of how a mouse in a bottling plant got stuck inside one of the empties ready to go onto the filling line. Unnoticed, this mouse was immersed in the beverage, was then sealed in when the bottle cap was applied, and then drowned while the bottle was packaged and palletized. While the product moved through distribution to retail, its carcass slowly dissolved and went unnoticed until an unsuspecting customer … well, you can imagine how that story ended.
After recounting this story recently, imagine my surprise to learn this is still happening today! Maybe three years ago, The Verge published a “A brief history of rodents in soda containers” and, in the present age of social media, it will surprise no one to see the video filmed by someone who spotted the mouse in their soda bottle! No surprise, there’s more than one filming of a mouse in a sealed Coca Cola bottle, the horror continues.
Let’s not pretend this is only a problem with fizzy drinks industry, every food manufacturing concern faces the risk of inadvertent contamination of their production from rodents; if not the whole animal itself, then it’s urination on raw commodity, or its fecal pellets falling into a mixer, or its hairs falling off in packaging. No wonder a well-designed and faithfully serviced pest management program and proper IPM inspections are necessary for every facility in the industry. The good news is there are digital rodent monitoring systems that can alert pest managers of a rodent capture inside a facility and rodent activity / pressure outside so they can act quickly. Perhaps the most valuable impact of this technology is that it helps automate trap checking that consumes as much as 75% of the service time. Now, that precious time can be reallocated to deeper, proactive IPM inspections to help head off infestations before they happen and root cause analysis and corrective actions if captures occur.
Traditional approaches to food safety no longer make the grade. It seems that stories of contaminated produce or foodborne illnesses dominate the headlines increasingly often. Some of the current safeguards set in place to protect consumers and ensure that companies are providing the freshest, safest food possible continue to fail across the world. Poorly regulated supply chains and food quality assurance breakdowns often sicken customers and result in recalls or lawsuits that cost money and damage reputations. The question is: What can be done to prevent these types of problems from occurring?
While outdated machinery and human vigilance continue to be the go-to solutions for these problems, cutting-edge intelligent imaging technology promises to eliminate the issues caused by old-fashioned processes that jeopardize consumer safety. This next generation of imaging will increase safety and quality by quickly and accurately detecting problems with food throughout the supply chain.
How Intelligent Imaging Works
In broad terms, intelligent imaging is hyperspectral imaging that uses cutting-edge hardware and software to help users establish better quality assurance markers. The hardware captures the image, and the software processes it to provide actionable data for users by combining the power of conventional spectroscopy with digital imaging.
Conventional machine vision systems generally lack the ability to effectively capture and relay details and nuances to users. Conversely, intelligent imaging technology utilizes superior capabilities in two major areas: Spectral and spatial resolution. Essentially, intelligent imaging systems employ a level of detail far beyond current industry-standard machinery. For example, an RGB camera can see only three colors: Red, green and blue. Hyperspectral imaging can detect between 300 and 600 real colors—that’s 100–200 times more colors than detected by standard RGB cameras.
Intelligent imaging can also be extended into the ultraviolet or infrared spectrum, providing additional details of the chemical and structural composition of food not observable in the visible spectrum. Hyperspectral imaging cameras do this by generating “data cubes.” These are pixels collected within an image that show subtle reflected color differences not observable by humans or conventional cameras. Once generated, these data cubes are classified, labeled and optimized using machine learning to better process information in the future.
Beyond spectral and spatial data, other rudimentary quality assurance systems pose their own distinct limitations. X-rays can be prohibitively expensive and are only focused on catching foreign objects. They are also difficult to calibrate and maintain. Metal detectors are more affordable, but generally only catch metals with strong magnetic fields like iron. Metals including copper and aluminum can slip through, as well as non-metal objects like plastics, wood and feces.
Finally, current quality assurance systems have a weakness that can change day-to-day: Human subjectivity. The people put in charge of monitoring in-line quality and food safety are indeed doing their best. However, the naked eye and human brain can be notoriously inconsistent. Perhaps a tired person at the end of a long shift misses a contaminant, or those working two separate shifts judge quality in slightly different ways, leading to divergent standards unbeknownst to both the food processor and the public.
Hyperspectral imaging can immediately provide tangible benefits for users, especially within the following quality assurance categories in the food supply chain:
Pathogen detection is perhaps the biggest concern for both consumers and the food industry overall. Identifying and eliminating Salmonella, Listeria, and E.coli throughout the supply chain is a necessity. Obviously, failure to detect pathogens seriously compromises consumer safety. It also gravely damages the reputations of food brands while leading to recalls and lawsuits.
Current pathogen detection processes, including polymerase chain reaction (PCR), immunoassays and plating, involve complicated and costly sample preparation techniques that can take days to complete and create bottlenecks in the supply chain. These delays adversely impact operating cycles and increase inventory management costs. This is particularly significant for products with a short shelf life. Intelligent imaging technology provides a quick and accurate alternative, saving time and money while keeping customers healthy.
Characterizing Food Freshness
Consumers expect freshness, quality and consistency in their foods. As supply chains lengthen and become more complicated around the world, food spoilage has more opportunity to occur at any point throughout the production process, manifesting in reduced nutrient content and an overall loss of food freshness. Tainted meat products may also sicken consumers. All of these factors significantly affect market prices.
Sensory evaluation, chromatography and spectroscopy have all been used to assess food freshness. However, many spatial and spectral anomalies are missed by conventional tristimulus filter-based systems and each of these approaches has severe limitations from a reliability, cost or speed perspective. Additionally, none is capable of providing an economical inline measurement of freshness, and financial pressure to reduce costs can result in cut corners when these systems are in place. By harnessing meticulous data and providing real-time analysis, hyperspectral imaging mitigates or erases the above limiting factors by simultaneously evaluating color, moisture (dehydration) levels, fat content and protein levels, providing a reliable standardization of these measures.
Foreign Object Detection
The presence of plastics, metals, stones, allergens, glass, rubber, fecal matter, rodents, insect infestation and other foreign objects is a big quality assurance challenge for food processors. Failure to identify foreign objects can lead to major added costs including recalls, litigation and brand damage. As detailed above, automated options like X-rays and metal detectors can only identify certain foreign objects, leaving the rest to pass through untouched. Using superior spectral and spatial recognition capabilities, intelligent imaging technology can catch these objects and alert the appropriate employees or kickstart automated processes to fix the issue.
Though it may not be put on the same level as pathogen detection, food freshness and foreign object detection, consumers put a premium on food uniformity, demanding high levels of consistency in everything from their apples to their zucchini. This can be especially difficult to ensure with agricultural products, where 10–40% of produce undergoes mechanical damage during processing. Increasingly complicated supply chains and progressively more automated production environments make delivering consistent quality more complicated than ever before.
Historically, machine vision systems and spectroscopy have been implemented to assist with damage detection, including bruising and cuts, in sorting facilities. However, these systems lack the spectral differentiation to effectively evaluate food and agricultural products in the stringent manner customers expect. Methods like spot spectroscopy require over-sampling to ensure that any detected aberrations are representative of the whole item. It’s a time-consuming process.
Intelligent imaging uses superior technology and machine learning to identify mechanical damage that’s not visible to humans or conventional machinery. For example, a potato may appear fine on the outside, but have extensive bruising beneath its skin. Hyperspectral imaging can find this bruising and decide whether the potato is too compromised to sell or within the parameters of acceptability.
Intelligent imaging can “see” what humans and older technology simply cannot. With the ability to be deployed at a number of locations within the food supply chain, it’s an adaptable technology with far-reaching applications. From drones measuring crop health in the field to inline or end-of-line positioning in processing facilities, there is the potential to take this beyond factory floors.
In the world of quality assurance, where a misdiagnosis can literally result in death, the additional spectral and spatial information provided by hyperspectral imaging can be utilized by food processors to provide important details regarding chemical and structural composition previously not discernible with rudimentary systems. When companies begin using intelligent imaging, it will yield important insights and add value as the food industry searches for reliable solutions to its most serious challenges. Intelligent imaging removes the subjectivity from food quality assurance, turning it into an objective endeavor.
Register to attend the complimentary webinar: New Technology’s Impact on Pest Management in a FSMA Regulated World | March 5, 2020 | 12 pm ETMillions of pounds of food are lost every year due to pest activity. A lot of those lost food products could have been prevented through a quality sanitation program. One of the best ways to protect your facility from the potential damage and pathogen spread caused pests like rodents is to maintain a quality sanitation program.
Every sanitation program should take into consideration conditions that are conducive to attracting and supporting unwanted visitors. As rodents are incredibly agile and intelligent creatures, one of the best ways to keep them out of a facility is to give them no reason to be interested in coming in. This means eliminating access to each of their basic needs: Food, water and harborage—in any amount. Remember, they are small, scrappy creatures and only need crumbs and droplets of water to survive. Once you change your perspective from that of a human being to that of a rodent you may be surprised by the bountiful conditions that are at your feet.
Whether you work in food manufacturing, distribution or retail, pests are both a fact of life as well as a regulatory disruption. At the same time, pest management solutions aren’t always clear-cut: While there are a variety of effective strategies employed by pest management professionals (PMPs) servicing the food industry, industry challenges—shifting regulatory standards, a lack of proper documentation and more—can complicate the process. For these reasons, short-term rodent problems can become long-term logistical nightmares, leaving food manufacturers in an undesirable situation when a third-party food plant auditor arrives.
Fortunately, emerging technologies in pest management practices are helping facility managers streamline their food and beverage quality assurance processes, reducing the risk of product loss, regulatory action, improper brand management and more. Specifically, electronic remote monitoring (ERM) allows PMPs to detect and monitor rodents in real time, providing you with important information to help reduce risk and increase audit compliance. As such, the value of food safety pest management strategies that incorporate ERM systems is only growing. Seeking out PMPs who use ERM allows you to invest in technologies that protect your margins, ensure the quality of your product and, ultimately, safeguard your most important asset—your reputation.
Modernizing Pest Management With ERM
At first glance, it might seem like pest management practices haven’t drastically changed since they were first implemented in the food manufacturing industry. Many rodent trapping systems remain similar to their original design: Devices designed to trap or kill that must be individually inspected and serviced by professional technicians. Technicians must then relay any risks to facility managers, who have to determine if additional resources are needed to avoid product loss or audit-based infractions.
Upon closer examination, it’s clear that while pests themselves have not significantly changed, both the pest management industry and the modern food supply chain have become increasingly complex. Food facility managers must contend with increasingly stringent food safety standards, and PMPs must rise to meet these needs with evolving pest management strategies.
In many ways, ERM technologies are the structural pest control industry’s response to these challenges, providing technicians with real-time notifications about rodent behavior and allowing them to make risk-based assessments that identify and treat problems before infestations occur. Unlike pest control strategies that rely on periodic service visits from technicians, PMPs who utilize ERM technology can monitor pest activity around the clock, 24/7/365, in virtually any environment. Instead of monitoring individual traps, PMPs can use ERM technology to know exactly when and where pest activity occurs, including in hard-to-monitor areas such as drop ceilings, crawlspaces, shelving undersides and other traditionally overlooked spaces. Technicians then receive valuable analytics from each trap they install, as well as documentation and reporting, that help managers achieve audit and regulatory compliance.
FSMA and ERM
In 2015, the FDA issued the final component of preventative control for human food under FSMA, officially enacting legislation that requires food safety plants to focus on risk-based pest prevention instead of reactive pest control strategies. As a result, quality assurance professionals and facility managers are often tasked with reallocating personnel toward proactive pest control activities in addition to their day-to-day responsibilities.
In many ways, ERM systems go hand-in-hand with FSMA and GFSI regulations. While preparing for a situation that hasn’t yet occurred can be a costly and time-consuming process, ERM has helped PMPs develop custom pest management strategies that assess and control situations in accordance with FSMA and other auditing firm guidelines. In many ways, ERM can provide all parties—PMPs, in-house auditors and third-party regulators—with a track record of pest history that all parties can cross-reference when assessing a facility.
From Risk-Averse to Risk-Based
When it comes to food safety rules and regulations, the only constant is change. In the structural pest control industry, auditors have historically implemented strict guidelines about trap placement that are frequently changing: For instance, traps should be placed every 10, 15, or 20 feet, regardless of facility susceptibility to various pest conditions. Failure to comply with regulations can result in point deductions on audits, even if the conditions that might lead to an infestation are not present. As such, food processing plants often choose to abide by the most stringent audit guidelines imposed upon them by other parties, such as retailers. By utilizing ERM technologies, food safety and quality assurance professionals can use additional pest monitoring analytics to focus on specific compliance issues, rather than spending additional time and money on other strategies.
Additionally, ERM allows PMPs to focus their efforts not only on weekly service visits and station checks, but also on important tasks, including assessing facility vulnerabilities, tracking rodent access points, and providing consultation and additional management strategies to their client—you.
Approaching the Audit with ERM
Food plant managers and retailers alike know that auditor approval is everything. Because ERM is a fast-developing technology, many quality assurance managers and facility owners are curious to know if ERM is audit approved. In truth, there are many kinds of audits, each with different goals, assessment techniques and regulatory standards. When it comes to audits, the gold standard is not necessarily the assessment of the facility and production line itself, but rather how well the assessment matches records kept by the food production plant.
To this end, ERM might be the answer to a streamlined audit process. No matter what kind of audit a plant is currently undergoing, ERM allows PMPs to provide records auditors need to verify that all systems are working properly. ERM can mean the difference between a streamlined process and a laborious audit, acting as a documentation system that helps officials conduct a PMP-verified “second-check.” This kind of verification is invaluable in an industry where there are already more than enough regulatory categories to consider without having to further worry about potential pest infestations.
Thanks to the many advantages they offer, ERM and other remote pest monitoring technologies are growing in popularity. Many facility managers appreciate that ERM allows them to assess pest activity, prevent infestations before they occur, gather data that helps them remain industry-compliant, and acquire and share information with additional parties. If you’re a facility manager, quality assurance professional or other food safety decision-maker interested in the opportunities ERM technologies provide, consider starting the conversation about your pest prevention system with your PMP and how ERM might help improve it.
Trust, But Verify
There is an overwhelming consensus in the pest control industry that technology should be developed to provide end-users with more information. ERM systems are a natural extension of this belief, providing each component of the food production and distribution supply chain—manufacturers, distributors, retailers, quality assurance officials, technicians and others—with more data about how pest control decisions are made. Without data, it can be difficult to ensure technician service visits end in greater transparency about the issues facility owners will face as they prepare for an audit.
Fortunately, ERM can help provide the level of trust and assurance plant managers need to feel confident in their day-to-day operations. ERM is an important step forward for manufacturer-regulator relations, which require a strong combination of data, trust and transparency to ensure that communication systems don’t break down. After all, there are many industries in which miscommunication can lead to catastrophic consequences, and food production is no exception.
While each manufacturing facility, processing plant, distribution center, storage warehouse and retail outlet is different, none are insusceptible to pest infestations, and none can avoid audits required to keep them compliant. Because rigorous oversight is crucial for food producers and consumers alike, working with your PMP to develop pest monitoring strategies that utilize ERM systems and other cutting-edge technologies should be part of your larger pest control consideration process.
In the end, the pest infestation that causes the least damage to your product, profit potential and industry reputation is the infestation that never occurs.
Given this fact, you may need to look up as well as down. Did you know that a rodent’s teeth is strong enough to gnaw through cinderblock? Or that they are smart enough to memorize floor plans and solve puzzles, enabling them to find multiple entrances into a facility? Did you know that a female mouse starts reproducing at only six weeks of age and can have up to 180 babies a year? That means there are 180 opportunities per mouse in your facility or home to reproduce, contaminate, and damage your products and property.
Rodent trivia can range from fun and interesting to downright shocking. The fact of the matter is that rodents are strong, agile and smart animals. The intelligence of rats is often ranked among some of the smartest in the animal kingdom. Since rodents can carry over 35 different diseases that are harmful to humans, it is a good reminder for those in food safety that these small skilled creatures require vigilance in order to keep them from spreading pathogens across your facility.
- Carolina Pest Management. (October 14, 2016). “10 Fascinating (but Scary!) Facts About Rodents. Retrieved from https://www.carolinapest.com/10-fascinating-scary-facts-rodents/
- debugged. (December 20, 2011). “10 Amazing Facts about Rats”. Retrieved from https://www.rentokil.ie/blog/10-rat-facts/
Rodents are vectors of more than 50 pathogens, including plague.1 While plague may be considered a problem of the past, according to the World Health Organization, between 2010 and 2015, there were 3,248 cases of reported plague worldwide and 584 deaths. While it is clearly not the 1300’s when the plague killed millions, the CDC confirms, “plague occurs in rural and semi-rural areas of the western United States, primarily in semi-arid upland forests and grasslands where many types of rodent species can be involved.” While the fact that plague is still lurking is a bit surprising, it should be no surprise that rodents can spread more than 50 diseases. Not the least of these diseases is Salmonella braenderup, the cause of recall of approximately 206,749,248 eggs in 2018. The good news: In the age of IoT, new technology can enable an immediate response to help prevent infestations from growing out of control.
With rodent populations on the rise due to climate change and the resultant public health issues in major cities across the United States, public health officials and pest managers face unimaginable challenges in staying ahead of rapidly growing and spreading rodent infestations. Earlier this year, Los Angeles had a typhus outbreak that resulted from a rat infestation near an encampment for those experiencing homelessness. The unsanitary conditions created a harborage for rats that spread the flea-borne illness. Cases of typhoid have doubled in the area since 2012. When and where will the next pathogen outbreak from rodent activity hit?
If that’s not frightening enough, it is important to highlight that once an infected, flea-carrying rodent enters a facility, eliminating the rodent does not always necessarily mean eliminating the presence of plague pathogens. The World Health Organization explains that once vectors have been introduced through rodents and their fleas, it is not enough to eliminate rodents. Vector control must take place before rodent control because “killing rodents before vectors will cause the fleas to jump to new hosts.”
Controlling the spread of pathogens via rodents is becoming increasingly important, particularly in sensitive environments like food processing and manufacturing facilities. Effective management begins with early and accurate detection and sustained through continuous monitoring. However, the traditional method of manual rodent inspection by its very nature cannot provide facility and pest managers with either early detection or continuous monitoring.
Thanks to IoT, monitoring systems can now be used in a wide variety of rodent monitoring devices inside and outside a facility. The systems transmit messages in real time over wireless networks and provide pest managers, facility management and public health officials with 24/7 visibility of rodent activity in a monitored location, which will enable more timely responses and help improve the effectiveness of mitigation efforts. Digital IoT technologies are rapidly becoming the modern proactive tool used to help predict and control rodent issues before they occur in an age when traditional, reactive methods are insufficient.
- Meerburg, B.G., Singleton, G.R., and Kijlstra, A. (2009). “Rodent-borne Diseases and their Risk for Public Health”. Crit Rev Microbiol.