Food processing facilities are a major attractant to pests, as they offer the three things needed for survival: food, water and shelter. But, operationally, pests can make or break a facility’s reputation come food safety audit time and be an expensive problem to fix. Knowing which areas pests find most inviting can help you and your employees keep pest pressures off your facility.
Dr. Alice Sinia is quality assurance manager of regulatory/lab services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry.
TRASH: Dumpsters and exterior trash receptacles are very attractive to pests such as flies, cockroaches, rodents, birds and raccoons if not properly maintained. Ensure trash is not overflowing by using the right sized receptacle; make sure receptacles are closed at all times and emptied at least once a week by your waste management professional. Hose down the inside of trash cans at least twice a month to avoid organic matter build up. Always properly line trash cans to avoid leaks.
LIGHTING: Certain exterior lighting can attract night-flying insects. Those that are high intensity or high wattage are bright and warm, which draw pests in. Instead of fluorescent bulbs, consider using sodium-vapor bulbs next to entry ways to make the area less appealing to flies, moths and beetles. Programming these lights to turn on about 15 minutes before dusk will also help deter night-flying pests. Similarly, ground level accent or landscape lights can attract rodents due to the warmth they provide and can encourage burrowing. Applying ¼-inch of pebble rock around the lights will prevent digging and burrowing.
LANDSCAPING: Many elements of landscaping can attract pests as they offer both food and shelter — anything from fruit- and nut-bearing trees to sweet-smelling flowers and thick ground covering. Because of this, it is important to manage them properly. Clean up fallen fruits and nuts off the ground (or avoid planting them near the building). Mow grass regularly, trim back landscaping from making direct contact with the building’s exterior and thin out any thick bushes and shrubbery.
LOW SPOTS AND PARKING LOTS: If not properly maintained, parking lots and other low-lying areas on your property can collect stagnant water and debris, which attract pests. Check these areas regularly to make sure water, leaves, trash and other materials are not collecting in low-lying areas and ensure proper drainage.
COMMON ENTRY POINTS
ROOFS: Oftentimes overlooked, birds and rodents will use roofs as an entry point, and flat roofs often collect water that attracts birds and provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes. These pests can easily make their way indoors via air intake systems. Using things like tree branches and gutters, birds, raccoons and roof rats will wriggle their way in from above. Ensure your roof is regularly inspected, maintained and pest-proofed to avoid pests gaining entry up top.
VENTILATION INTAKES: If not properly screened, ventilation intakes can be a common nesting ground for birds, flies and rodents. Have your HVAC regularly inspected, and ensure vents are properly screened off using insect-proof mesh.
WINDOWS AND DOORS: Pests can use the same windows and doors as employees. Install air curtains at exterior entrance doors to establish positive air pressure that pushes pests towards the exit instead of drawing them in. Making sure windows and doors are not left open by employees will make a difference here. Check that screens are not torn or worn out and make sure door sweeps and windows all create good seals so pests cannot slip through the cracks when they are closed.
DOCK PLATES/RECEIVING: Receiving areas and dock plates built into the floor are easy spots where pests can slip into gaps unnoticed. Close dock doors between shipments to cut down on unwanted entry and maintain proper inspection of incoming food products. Pests can wriggle their way into the supply chain by sneaking into your facility in a box or through gaps in dock levelers. Be sure to inspect dock levelers weekly to prevent trash build-up.
STORAGE AREAS: Just as with receiving, storage areas are susceptible to stored-food pest threats. Moths, rodents and beetles are all great concerns here. Don’t bring a pallet of goods directly into the storage areas — unpack it at the loading dock so, if pests are hitching a ride along the supply chain, they are stopped right there. Rotate stock on a first-in-first-out basis so products are never sitting too long. Store supplies on open-backed shelving that is 12-18 inches away from the walls to help remove hiding spots for pests.
EQUIPMENT: Equipment handling food — which often builds up moisture — is extremely susceptible to pest pressures. All areas under and behind machinery should be accessible for regular and easy cleaning. Regularly deep clean the inside of machinery as often as possible, and make sure staff knows to check and clean the inside of machinery often for hidden pests such as ants, beetles, cockroaches and rodents.
BREAK ROOMS: It can be easy for employees to be less strict about cleanliness in break and lounge areas. But crumbs or clutter left behind make these spaces just as susceptible to pest pressures as the production floor. Make sure employees practice good sanitation habits and store food in airtight containers. Empty trash in these areas at least daily to avoid food waste becoming the next meal for rodents, cockroaches or ants. Educate your staff to be proactive on pest sightings and inspecting their personal belongings to ensure they aren’t tracking pests in with them.
FLOOR DRAINS: Drains can lead to sanitation issues and sometimes serve as a possible entry point as well as a breeding spot for pests. If food debris accumulates around drains, small insects will take shelter inside the drains. If the drains are also wet, flies will begin to breed in the area. Ideally, floor drains should be installed with a secondary strainer to prevent pests from coming into the facility through the drains. Use microbial-based cleaners in drains to break down organic matter that may be collecting there.
CLUTTER: Pests love to nest and hide, and clutter offers the perfect place to take cover. Cardboard boxes or piles of debris are an inviting home for cockroaches, rodents, beetles and spiders. Keep your facility free of unnecessary stockpiles by disposing of unused cardboard boxes as quickly as possible. Unused or decommissioned equipment should also be cleaned and properly stored away as to not clutter active areas.
As you can see, food processing plants can be riddled with attractants for pests, but there are simple changes in monitoring, sanitation, landscaping and maintenance that help alleviate pest pressures. By reducing pest attractants as much as possible and knowing what areas to monitor, you are off to a great start in defending against pest pressures. Work closely with your pest management provider to discuss what options are best for your facility, and always notify them immediately should you spot evidence of pest activity while routinely checking these hotspots.
Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is quality assurance manager of regulatory/lab services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 20 years of experience, she manages the quality assurance laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. For more information, email Alice Sinia at [email protected] or visit www.orkincanada.com