Archives - January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015
Winter’s colder temperatures, rain and snow not only make the longing for the spring greater but they also “motivate” rodents to seek new harborage locations inside commercial facilities. Why do rats and mice – who enjoy living in sewers and garbage dumpsters – seek better accommodations in the winter?
The answer is simple: winter can deplete a rodent’s food, water and harborage sources and commercial structures – especially food processing facilities – can offer these items in abundance and rodents will make every effort to gain access to these facilities.
Today’s approach to commercial rodent management has turned inward and focuses strongly on physical exclusion practices in and around commercial facilities. This approach emphasizes a point the Sprague Pest Experts have made for years: That it is far easier to prevent a rodent infestation than to get rid of one after they’ve taken up residence.
The first step in creating an effective rodent exclusion program in your facility is conducting a comprehensive walk through – inside and outside - with your engineering or maintenance department, and your pest management partner.
The inspection should focus on identifying structural or cultural weak spots (i.e. cracks in the foundation, missing vent screens, poor sanitation practices, missing door sweeps and weather stripping, etc.) that need to be addressed. Your Exclusion/Rodent Proofing Inspection Checklist should include:
• General Sanitation Evaluation of the Facility
• Exterior Areas
o Foundation Areas
o Roof/Roofing Materials
o Utility Attachments
o Exterior Landscape
o Exterior Doors/Windows
• Interior Areas
o Supply rooms and furnace rooms
o Employee locker rooms, break rooms and cafeterias
o Inside machinery (motor compartments are a favorite)
o Warehouse/storage areas, especially areas where raw food ingredients are stored
o Carts on which food is transported within facility
When it comes to keeping rodents out of commercial facilities the biggest enablers are usually the humans working inside the facility. For example, a common point of entry for rodents into commercial structures is through an open loading dock or factory door.
Employees often leave doors open to regulate temperatures or let in fresh air – even during winter - but this can be dangerous, especially in food industry facilities, since it rolls out the red carpet for hungry rodents. The installation of automatic door closers and heavy-duty screens in doors will help eliminate these easy access points.
What would you think of a pest management program that featured rodenticide baits placed on plastic plates next to stored food and rodent feces in food storage coolers? Probably not much and neither would a third-party auditor.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently cited a company that distributes products to Asian restaurants on the East Coast and Midwest for numerous violations where rodents and birds had created dangerous food safety conditions.
Among the violations found at the company’s Pennsylvania-based warehouse were live and dead rodents within the facility and birds “landing and defecating on stored food products.” If that wasn’t bad enough inspectors also found a pallet of pineapples in boxes that served as a rodent nesting site and a path of rodent feces leading to holes in bags of flour.
To add insult to injury the warehouse was so densely packed with bags of food – pallets were stacked two high and six to eight deep over a 3,000 sq. ft. area – that inspectors had a difficult time accessing all locations and identifying the true extent of the facility’s rodent population.
In the FDA’s report the agency also cited the company’s “failure to provide documentation that demonstrated corrective action, certification of actions performed by a licensed exterminator and other actions performed to control unauthorized entrance of pests.”
The takeaway lesson from this extreme situation is that an effective rodent and pest management program is not accomplished in a vacuum. Both the client and pest management provider share the responsibility for ensuring that a well-designed and documented program is established to meet and exceed audit and regulatory standards.
Each year dozens of invasive pest species are introduced across the United States. While some pose a greater degree of threat than others, all qualify as nuisances, especially for commercial food processing facilities.
The Sprague Pest Experts caught up with Dr. Jim Fredericks, the chief entomologist and vice president of technical and regulatory affairs for the National Pest Management Association, and a board certified entomologist, to ask what “new” pests should commercial clients be concerned with in 2015.
Fredericks told the Sprague Pest Experts that the marmorated stink bug, a relative newcomer to the Pacific Northwest, was a pest to keep an eye on. Introduced to the Mid-Atlantic States in the 1990s, the brown marmorated stink bug found its way across the country in shipping crates, trucks, trailers and railcars.
As its’ names implies the stink bug does just that – stink – as it emits a foul odor when crushed. The stink bug is not known as a carrier of bacteria that can lead to food-borne illnesses but its large size (1/2 to ¾ inches long and wide) and presence within a commercial facility, especially one that is subject to third-party food safety audits, would not be welcome.
“Stink bugs are overwintering pests and will seek shelter inside facilities during the colder winter months,” says Fredericks. “Once inside they will hunker down and could find their way into food packaging or finished stored food and contaminate the product.”
The best prevention method for stink bugs is to deny them access to the facility by sealing cracks and openings, and conducting a thorough inspection of incoming shipments.
“Insect contamination of unfinished and finished food products is not only due to rodents, cockroaches or stored product pests, it can be any pest,” says Fredericks. “In today’s global food industry, shipments cross not only state lines but international borders, and are vulnerable to pest infestation at numerous points along the journey.”
Early detection is the key to getting the upper hand on invasive pests. If you or your staff encounters a “new” pest in your facility contact the Sprague Pest Experts immediately to make a proper identification and plot out a plan of action. It is also recommended that you isolate any product or material shipments where the pest was found to prevent further contamination.