Pests and rodents have started to annoy the human life, way back from the cultivation stage of human development. Although they are a quintessential part of our food chain, the role of pests in creating a havoc in human health and devastating the food industry is huge.
Pests are hosts to many micro organisms that can cause a variety of diseases to man. They are a threat to those working in the food industry and the food itself, which when consumed, seriously destroys our gut health.
Pests that threaten the food industry
Some of the common pests that destroy the food industry are:
Rodents include mainly rats and mice. We can identify a possible rodent infestation through signs such as visual sightings, gnawing sounds, droppings, gnawing of wires and insulation and urine stains which are visible under UV light. They nest close to food sources and are known for their rapid breeding capacity. Risks associated with rodent infestation are damage to property, electrical equipment, machinery, food containers, packaging, contamination of food with droppings, fur, urine, transmission of hazardous parasites thus increasing the risk of serious diseases.
Cockroaches are said to be carriers of at least six types of parasitic worms, 7 kinds of human pathogens and at least 33 kinds of bacteria. They also have a knack for hiding in small crevices, varied diet and rapid reproduction capacity. They may also pick up debris and germs on their legs while crawling through sewage and other unclean places which can then be easily transferred to food, work stations, food processing equipment, thus increasing the chances of contamination.
Above hundreds of pathogens are being carried by common flies. They usually breed in decaying garbage and moist unclean environments and then move to fresh food, manufacturing and processing equipment and other work stations, thus contaminating them by spreading disease-causing bacteria. They pick up contaminated material in their mouth parts and on their bodies, as they feed. Some species regurgitate digestive juices and even defecate while feeding and resting. This further increases contamination.
They can cause a great amount of physical damage by blocking guttering systems with their nests and feathers as well as dislodging roof tiles, especially the larger birds. Bird droppings, nesting materials and feathers can contaminate food products, surfaces, preparation areas and equipment. Apart from emitting bad odor and being unsightly, bird droppings are poisonous.
Integrated Pest Management is a solution
Integrated Pest Management or IPM focuses on keeping the pests out of your food facility rather than focusing on eliminating them once they are inside the facility. This approach involves the following steps:
A detailed inspection is the first step towards IPM. The obvious places which should be looked into are the ones where the food is – either raw or packaged. For instance, employee break rooms, receiving docks, areas prone to spills etc. Apart from these places, it is also crucial to inspect the entry and exit points, harborage zones (cardboard boxes, closets or any other known hiding and breeding grounds of pests), as well as food and water sources. Usually, a weekly inspection may suffice. But, if your facility has a history of pest infestation, it is advisable that the frequency and intensity of inspections is increased.
This is the most important strategy in pest control. The main aim is to ideally seal off the recognized potential entry points of pests, after the inspection. Sanitation is a basic yet important preventive step which can help in making your pest control efforts effective. Keep the production and storage areas clean, dry and orderly. Pest-conducive locations should be recorded, and appropriate control measures should be taken for such areas.
Monitoring and documentation
Every step of inspection and prevention should be duly monitored and documented. After implementation of preventive measure, a close watch should be kept on your facility so immediate procedural changes can be implemented to help control and eliminate any recurring pest infestation. Thorough documentation can prove to be useful for future references.
One of the most important things to remember while choosing an Integrated Pest Management program for your facility is that it should be customized to suit the type of infestation, environment of your facility and the nature of your business. This will help ensure that you get the best possible results.
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