Risk assessment in pest management


Business owners occasionally take calculated risks. When placed in the context of pest management, however, you and your pest control partner must have a zero tolerance approach to risk-taking.

Pests have a very high possibility of harming people, spoiling and tainting food, and damaging structures. Our clients – especially those in the food processing industry – can take zero risks when it comes to protecting their products, brands and customers.

This is why our approach to preventing and eliminating pests centers on the integrated pest management principles that assess risk levels and deliver the appropriate response.

“Risk is temporal and is influenced by the time, location and conducive conditions found within an account,” said Jeff Weier, Technical Director for Sprague Pest Solutions. “Risk is not static – it is variable. This must be considered when designing and implementing a pest management program.”

For example, a vegetable processing plant can be idle for all but three months every year, but this doesn’t mean that pests can’t be active or pose a threat during the off season. If sanitation or exclusion protocols aren’t followed during peak processing times, pests will thrive on the food and waste products left behind, in or under equipment.

A thorough risk assessment is the first action the Sprague Pest Experts take for new clients. Think like a pest professional with these prompts:


–          What are your risks?

–          Where are the physical areas of your facility that are most at risk for pest infestation?

–          What manufacturing processes or plant protocols place your facility at a higher risk level?

Modes of transportation – trucks, railcars, boats – present a significant risk to food processors because of their vulnerability to pest infestation during the journey from the farm or waters to the processing facility.

For example, an uncovered semi-trailer full of grain can wait two or three hours at the dock waiting to be unloaded. This potentially exposes the load to bacteria-laden bird droppings from a nesting site above the dock. In another scenario, a family of mice can slip into a grain shipment while it is loaded at the point of origin; this has potential to spoil the entire load with urination, droppings, and feeding while it is being transported.

Today’s more stringent regulatory and audit requirements require facilities to provide data and documentation that verifies the effectiveness of their pest management protocols.

“Over the next five years, traceability technology and systems will become more advanced and audit requirements will become more comprehensive,” said Weier. “The need for risk assessment protocols will grow. Preventing pests from becoming a problem by getting ahead of the issue can save time, money and protect your brand.”

recent article in Quality Assurance & Food Safety magazine emphasizes the importance of a risk-based preventative approach to pest management.

Food Processing & Manufacturing