In few places is quality pest control as important as in food industry environments, as an infestation can compromise the product and also the reputation of a company. But pest control in these environments is a delicate and complex activity, in which precautions must be taken to maintain food safety.
Seven steps for correct pest control in the food industry
In food processing environments, correct pest control is an indisputable necessity.
And also do it in a way that the treatments don’t threaten food security. For this, the best way to control pests and, at the same time, respect the sensitive environmental needs of a food plant, it is necessary to apply the principles of integrated pest control (IPC).
Integrated pest management programs are successful for one simple reason: they are approached on the basis that pest control is a process, not a one-time activity, and that relying on chemical control alone when many other tools exist available is never the best. solution. By addressing the underlying causes of pest infestations, such as access to food, water and shelter, the IPC can prevent infestation before even considering the use of pesticides. An article published in the journal Food Quality and Safety explains the seven critical steps that make up the continuous cycle of the CIP system.
Step 1: The Inspection
The foundation of an effective CIP system is a regular inspection program. In food processing plants, weekly or even more frequent inspections are common. These routine inspections should focus on areas where pests are most likely to appear (commodity receiving areas, storage areas, etc.) and identify potential entry points, food and water sources, or refuge areas for pests.
Step 2: preventive action
If regular inspections reveal vulnerabilities in the pest control program, action must be taken before they cause a real problem. One of the most effective preventive measures is exclusion, that is, carrying out the necessary structural maintenance to close possible entry points for pests detected in inspection.
By physically controlling pests, it is possible to reduce the need for chemical measures. Likewise, correct hygiene and cleaning will eliminate potential sources of food and water, reducing pest persistence.
Step 3: Identification
Each pest has a different behavior, so by correctly identifying the problematic species, it can be eliminated more efficiently and with less risk of harming other organisms.
Pest control professionals always start with the correct identification of the pest to be treated. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the pest control contractor you hire is well trained in pest identification and behavior.
Step 4: The analysis
Once the pest has been correctly identified, it is necessary to find out why there is a pest in the facility. Are there food residues, moisture build-up, or odors that might attract it? How does the pest get into the installation? Is it possible that the received goods are infested?
The answers to this type of question will lead to the choice of the best control techniques.
Step 5: Selection of treatment
Integrated pest management emphasizes the use of non-chemical control methods such as exclusion or trapping rather than chemical options. When other control methods have failed or are inadequate for the situation, chemicals, in low volatility formulations, can be applied to specific areas and to treat a specific pest.
In other words, it’s about using the right treatments in the right places and in the minimum applications necessary to successfully control the pest.
Often, proper treatment will consist of a combination of possibilities, from chemical treatments to baits or traps.
However, by adopting the principle of using non-chemical options first, you can ensure that your company’s pest control program is effectively eliminating pests, with the least risk to food safety, non-target organisms and the environment.
In addition, in this way, it is very likely that higher scores will be achieved in the pest control section within the audits carried out in the company.
Step 6: Supervision
Since pest control is an ongoing process, constant monitoring of pests in the facility and, if necessary, changes to the facility or operations, can protect against infestations and help eliminate existing ones.
Since the pest control professional visits the facility bi-weekly or weekly, the company’s own personnel should be involved in the CIP program and be its daily eyes and ears. Employees must be aware of the sanitation and hygiene issues included in the program and must report any signs of pest activity. In the presence of a real pest, the immediacy of the reaction is crucial.
Step 7: Documentation
Food safety and quality audits are increasingly relevant for the sector. As pest control can account for up to 20% of the total score, it is important that the CIP program is properly implemented at the time of the audit.
Up-to-date pest control documentation is one of the first signs an auditor gets that the company is serious about pest control. Key documents include: program scope, pest control activity reports, service reports, corrective action reports, trap layout maps, list of authorized biocides, biocide usage reports, and operator licenses.
To ensure the maximum potential of the CIP program, it is important to approach the relationship with the pest control professional as a partnership. Open communication and cooperation between the company, the team and the biocidal service provider brings clear benefits: fewer issues, safer products and better audit scores.