A proactive approach to rodents in the food processing industry

At this year’s Sprague Food Safety Pest Management Conference, the Sprague Pest Experts and some of the nation’s leading food safety and pest management authorities shared the latest information on food safety and pest management trends and practices.

One of the sessions focused on the food processing industry’s biggest pest nemesis – rodents. Noted rodent expert Dr. Bobby Corrigan of RMC Pest Management Consulting shared the latest trends in rodent management for food processing and distribution facilities.

Rodent prevention and elimination in food processing facilities is a critical element in a comprehensive food safety program. Aside from the food spoilage issues that rodents cause with their gnawing, urine and feces, they also are transmitters of harmful bacteria including E. coli, listeria and salmonella – a dangerous trio of food borne illnesses.

“Almost nothing is standard when it comes to preventing and controlling rodents in a food processing facility,” said Corrigan. “There is a variableness with rodents that make them unique and a challenge to manage.”

One aspect of their unique behavior is that they will frequently go against the widely-held practice of traveling solely along perimeter walls or exterior fences. Corrigan told attendees it is not uncommon for severe rodent infestations to develop far away from perimeter wall traps and exterior bait stations.

“Rodents do not restrict themselves to traveling along wall perimeters or property line fences,” said Corrigan. “Inspecting all rodent-vulnerable areas is a requirement in a proactive rodent management program.”

Corrigan encouraged attendees and their pest management partners to conduct comprehensive inspections of vulnerable “non-wall” areas within their facility including:

  • Beneath the slabs in warehouses around the bases of support piers that penetrate through the slabs (between expansion joints where cement slabs meet or surround piers).
  • Pallets of incoming goods; these pallets may be slotted for virtually any place within a large warehouse.
  • The damaged goods section (i.e. the morgue).
  • Aisles containing foods highly attractive to rodents (birdseed, grass seed, bags of dry pet food, etc.).
  • Ceiling voids (especially above heat-generating processing equipment).
  • Insulated walls near high-ceiling desk areas and within cubicle divider walls and bases.
  • Cafeterias, break rooms and within vending machines.
  • Uncleaned dock leveler voids.
  • Exterior dumpster areas.

Documentation and setting realistic expectations are also important elements in the working relationship between the facility and the pest management provider.

“Implementing a pro-active rodent management program takes time and both parties have an important responsibility within the food safety partnership of pest management,” said Corrigan.

Regularly scheduled progress reports and consistent, frequent communication about the program are also important.

“With rodents, it is not enough to wait until an independent third-party audit to take a hard and close look at where things stand,” said Corrigan. “It is important for both parties to regularly review how the program is progressing and react accordingly to new threats or changes.

Food Processing & Manufacturing, Rodents: Rats & Mice