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Pest Control for Food Safety

The Importance of Pest Control

Pest control is one of the most important pre-requisite program for all food safety management systems. The effectiveness of implementation on this program will encourage and support in reducing food safety risk. Food business operator shall pay attention to the control of pest infestation and the possible contamination caused by pest at all stages of food supply chain.

Pests are attracted to food premises since they are an ideal habitat in which to live and reproduce. Since pests pose a significant health risk, pest control is extremely important. Inadequate control can lead to pest infestation and serious consequences to consumer health. Besides potential health risks, pest infestation will inevitably lead to significant waste and, therefore, commercial loss. The loss caused by pest infestation of raw materials or the finished product can be large.

Types of Pests

There are many different types of pests that can pose a risk to human health or the commercial viability of your company. These include:

  • Rats
  • Mice
  • Insects – cockroaches, flies, ants
  • Stored product pests – larder beetles, weevils, flour moths
  • Reptiles – lizards
  • Birds
  • Animals attracted by pests - notably, cats and dogs

Habitats of Pests

Pests require certain conditions to survive and reproduce: security, shelter, food and water. You must understand what conditions allow pests to survive and reproduce. If you aren’t fully aware of what these circumstances are, your business will suffer contamination and losses that may make the business no longer sustainable.

Prevention

Once pests have entered your factory and/or office premises, it is difficult to control and totally eliminate them, particularly if there is an infestation. You must prevent their invading your factory or facility. Preventing any and all ingression of pests will be commercially more cost-effective than continually eliminating pest infestation. The control of prevention of ingression of pests requires

  • Proofing the premises
  • Monitoring for signs of infestation
  • Practicing good hygiene

Infestation Sign Monitoring

You must make sure all staff members are aware of signs of pest infestation and possible entry points. They should also be aware of the importance of reporting the presence of any possible infestation right away. Signs to look for are: live animals, dead animals, droppings, damaged packaging, smell, smears/discolorations of walls, larvae/pupae, eggs, webbing, piles of debris and holes in fabrication.

Good Hygiene Practices

Denying pests food and shelter in your facility is another way of preventing infestations. This can be achieved by practicing good hygiene practices, effective cleaning, and proper waste disposal. By following good hygiene practices, your staffs are removing the food and shelter pests need to survive. All staff should be aware of these good hygiene practices:

  • Keep the factory clean.
  • Have proper waste control.
  • Be sure food in preparation areas is kept covered.
  • Clean spillages quickly and effectively.
  • Be sure no food is left outside the facility.
  • Keep food stored off the floor and away from walls.
  • Be sure raw materials are checked upon intake and
  • Be sure food is stored in pest-proof containers during storage.
  • Keep drains clean and screened.
  • Allow no external shelter.

Control of Pests

Prevention methods should protect you from the ingression of pests; however it is a good practice to ensure there are control measures in place to minimise the risk of pest infestation in your factory. You have a responsibility to ensure control measures are in place.

There are two types of pest control:

  • Physical
  • Chemical

Both types are designed to control specific types of pests, but by their very nature they should be correctly used since they themselves could pose a risk to your product or staff.

Physical Control

Physical means of control is usually the preferred option. By their very nature, however, physical means of control are not always 100% effective, a point that should be very seriously considered. In the event of a significant infestation, physical controls cannot cope with the numbers of pests, so alternative methods of elimination must be considered.

Typical physical control methods include: electric fly killers, rodent traps, sticky fly strips, curtains, bird screens and pheromone traps.

Since several of these methods will actually kill pests, you should consider the location and placement of control mechanisms such as electric fly killers and sticky fly traps in order to avoid possible product contamination.

Chemical Control

Chemical control measures are much more effective than physical control methods: however, chemical substances do pose possible risks to staff, so the use of chemical control should be frequently and carefully controlled and monitored. Chemical substances also pose a risk to food contamination, so they should also be used only under controlled and monitored conditions.

Because of the risks involved, it is a good practice to employ a professional to carry out chemical pest control.

Chemical controls include; rodenticides, insecticides, acaricide and fumigates.

Monitoring

Inspection of Raw Materials for Pests

An area of concern is the ingression of pests by way of raw materials. You must be aware of your raw materials and possible pests that could live on or infest certain raw materials. For example, some raw materials are prone to certain pests, such as flour, in which certain species of moths can live. Systems should be in place always to inspect the raw materials, including packaging, and delivery to the factory. All consignments should be inspected for signs of pest infestation. If there is evidence of infestation, consignments should be rejected. If specific products are known to be subject to invasion or contamination by certain kinds of pests, it is good manufacturing practice to know your supplier’s pest control systems.

Professional Advice

When developing and implementing a pest control system, you may well find it advisable to seek professional advice and assistance, particularly in the event of serious problems of infestation. Professional pest control companies can also carry out regular inspections of your facility and provide advice on best practices. If you do employ a professional pest control company, it is still your company’s responsibility, however, to ensure the safety of the product. You cannot transfer your responsibility for effective pest control to some outside entity.

Regular Inspections

Regular inspections of the premises must be carried out to ensure that there is no pest infestation and that the premises are not open to the risk of pest ingression. When carrying out inspections, you will need to focus on particular areas: food storage areas, behind and underneath equipment, unlit undisturbed areas, and waste storage areas.

If there is evidence of any pest ingression or infestation, immediate corrective action should be taken to bring the situation under control. Any delay in corrective action could result in product contamination and significant commercial loss.

Mr. Niyom Sanmano (M.S. Entomology)
SSC Division
SGS Thailand