Rodent Control in Industry Series Part 1: Protecting the Public in the Background: Best Rodent Control Practices in the Food Processing Industry
David Bennett | September 12, 2018 | Pest Control
When you buy food in the grocery store, you probably don’t think about the pest control practices at the company where the food product was made. The reason we don’t is because the United States has some of the best regulatory practices for food production in the world. We trust it. We don’t question it, and it’s something that companies don’t talk about to the general public. However, corporations in the industry are always actively discussing better pest control measures in the industry. By implementing a strict and effective rodent control plan, using industry standards, coupled with Federal government requirements, food production companies protect the public from disease and food contamination, and lessen considerably the risks of food poisoning, thus improving our quality of life.
How Does Rodent Control Work in the Food Processing Industry?
Three things are needed for targeted, effective pest control—
- Correct identification of pests so as to apply the most targeted control methods for that pest
- Elimination of collateral damage—avoiding killing of non-target animals
- Constant updating of federal and state industrial pest control guidelines as pest control technology evolves.
Food industry, including food processing plants and restaurants:
Digital photos and digital microscope are some of the tools in the arsenal of big industry in the correct identification of pests, and documentation of pests are crucial to an effective pest management strategy. Food Safety Magazine goes so far to state that “documentation programs are essential to identification of problem areas, service histories and records of all materials used on the premises, and will be the information that third party auditors will examine. “The magazine also goes on to predict that rodent control will be increasingly technology driven, and they predict that pest control materials will be less toxic. We agree and have posted a number of articles on the collateral damage inflicted on non-target animals as a result of rat poison laid out. Food production facilities have specific guidelines on laying out poison bait stations so as to work towards elimination of accidental poisoning of non-target animals, which we will look into further down in this article.
Federal, State and Industry Standards
Federal and state standards, and National Pest Management Association standards are implemented in food processing facilities across the country. The Food and Drug Administration has online training for federal best practices in pest control in food manufacturing facilities.
These standards, which are also implemented and discussed by the NPMA include surveys, identification procedures to be followed, baiting practices and disposal of dead rodents.
Pest Control Surveys of Premises Around Food Manufacturing Facilities
Regular pest control surveys include:
- Regular inspection surveys outside the plant for cluttered areas that could be potential homes for rodents, also roofs and confirmed burrows
- Areas of potential infestation such as open trash, standing water, and potential or confirmed burrowing areas
- Dumpsters which are not on rigid cleanable areas such as concrete pads
- Open doors or gaps which could permit rodent entry
- Clutter or debris accumulation under load levelers
- Clutter or debris accumulation under dock areas
- Off loading areas with debris accumulation (debris is not just trash—it also includes pallet piles, construction debris, etc).
- Tall grass and vegetation on the property and around buildings, as well as adjacent buildings having less than 2 feet of clearance and areas not having gravel or other material that will reduce rodent activity
- Neighboring properties which may be at risk of infestation
Identification Procedures and Baiting Practices
The FDA’s pest control training course outlines the different species of rats, and how to recognize a rat infestation problem. This tool is indispensable in employee training, for it enables everyone in a food processing plant to lend a hand in controlling rodents, rather than leaving the task to a specialized few. The FDA’s identification guidelines are as listed:
Signs of rodent infestation include:
- Rodent droppings and urine stains along walls, on top of wall studs or beams, near nests, and in boxes, bags, furniture, and other objects.
- Smears (rub marks) along walls near floor level, left by the oil and dirt in the rodents’ coats and whiskers. Rats leave larger smears than mice.
- Tracks in dust. Rats drag their tails, which leaves a mark between their feet tracks.
- Holes in food packaging.
- Gnaw marks on wood or other materials.
- Stale or musky odor.
- Signs of burrowing or nesting material (usually loosely woven fibrous materials, paper, or cloth). House mice usually nest within 10-30 feet from food sources; rats will nest much farther away.
- Nocturnal activity. Daytime activity may indicate high populations of rats, but not necessarily of house mice.
Each section of the course is reinforced by a quiz, to reinforce knowledge.
Recommended Control Measures for Food Processing Facilities
The FDA then recommends control measures beginning from the simple advice as one would use in residential pest control to more industrial targeted measures— such as preventing entry, removing nesting and breeding sites, eliminating potential sources of food and water, good sanitation practices, and doing regular surveys of the outside of the property, which the NPMA implements in their best practices referenced at the beginning of this article. The FDA also recommends the use of floor sweeps and self- closing doors, windows are screened and in good repair, and caulking and sealing of cracks at junctions of floor and walls, around wiring, pipes, vents and flues, and repair of all wall openings to the outside. Interestingly enough, the FDA states that exclusion practices outlined above are BEST, and does not even go into using pesticides or rodenticides probably because of concerns of food contamination. Food Safety Magazine seems to advocate a multipronged approach including traps (both conventional rat traps and glue traps—along with bait boxes. The NPMA recommends using snap traps and glue board traps inside locked and anchored stations inside the plant if unable to place rodenticide. Food Safety Magazine advocates
targeting areas of infestation so as to reduce the amount of bait boxes that need to be laid down, thus cutting down on the accidental poisoning of non-target species. The NPMA recommends when placing bait boxes outside of the plant, to space them 50-100 feet apart if there is no previous data regarding infestation, and to only use this placement to establish a baseline. The idea is to only target infestations rather than laying hundreds of traps and bait stations everywhere. Constant monitoring and tracking of infestations helps to prevent future infestations, as well as to best determine the best methods of control (i.e. traps, bait stations, birth control, etc). The NPMA also advocates the use of electronic monitoring technology. “Remote electronic monitoring technology for pest management devices provide an opportunity to use advancements in technology to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of pest management activities. As the technology evolves, science-based reviews of the system confirm its value and customer acceptance expands; the devices should become an accepted tool. The structural pest management industry embraces proven advances in technology providing more effective and efficient IPM systems to meet our customer needs. Remote electronic monitoring devices will be able to signal an event notification to the pest management provider and/or client. This type of information flow, if supported by accurate data, may enable pest management companies to redirect their efforts to other pest management actions. It is our belief that as the pest management industry gains more experience with this technology and the equipment is refined; it will permit greater flexibility in our ability to focus on the special pest management needs of a particular site. Pest management companies will need to determine on a case by case basis how often these devices need to be manually checked to maintain their functionality as part of the food safety program.”
The FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in 2011), is the largest food safety overhaul since the 1930’s according to Food Safety Magazine. The Act shifts focus on pest control from response to contamination to prevention of it altogether in imported foods, transport of food, and farm protocols before the food even gets to the processing plant. The article also says the biggest mistake an industry can make is not partnering with a professional pest control company to manage quality assurance practices and annually review pest control strategy. The Pest Management Standards of the NPMA state that at least once a year a supervisor, quality assurance person, or manager from a pest control company must review the entire pest control program on-site. The QA audit must include a review of the program records, pest activity trends (using GIS, complaints from employees or the community, identification practices, etc), and frequency of service as well as monthly inspections.
You can see that a lot goes into protecting your food and you from contamination by rats and mice. It’s something that isn’t pleasant to talk about, but important for your quality of life. Nobody wants to get sick from food poisoning or even possibly die. As rodent control technology advances, industry-wide rodent control practices can only become more effective, less toxic, and more about prevention than response.
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