Pest-prevention strategies in food processing premises

Pest-prevention strategies in food processing premises

By David Cross, Head of the Technical Training Academy, Rentokil Pest Control and Paul Casson, Technical Field Manager at Rentokil Specialist Hygiene

Impeccable hygiene is paramount to the success of food production businesses. Facilities managers responsible for these establishments have to comply with strict legislation in order to ensure food safety. Letting standards slip or failure to comply with legislation can lead to fines, closures and product recalls, as one Teeside manufacturer recently discovered following council inspections.

Staying pest-free can be a particular challenge for this industry, as food processing premises typically have an abundance of food, shelter and warmth, making them an attractive home for pests. Meanwhile, the nature of food production also requires vigilance when it comes to cleaning and hygiene. In fact, the two disciplines are closely linked. This article will look at four rules facilities managers should follow to ensure both a pest-free and hygienic facility.

Rule one: prevention is better than a cure when it comes to pests

Hoping for the best and reacting when pest activity arises is not only a poor strategy, it could lead to a breach of legislation. The Food Safety & Hygiene (England) Regulations 2016 state that premises should be designed so they enable cleaning and the proper removal of waste. It also says that as far as that is practical, entry of birds and any risk of infestation by rodents or insects must be prevented.

While a single pest sighting may not seem like much, it can often indicate a much larger issue. A reactive pest strategy is risky for a business because by the time you spot something, it may be too late. Be sure to ensure there are no potential entry points to your premises, remembering that most pests can squeeze through the tiniest of gaps.

Non-toxic monitoring blocks are one way that pest problems can be detected as early as possible, while ensuring toxic substances aren’t deployed unnecessarily onsite. For example, sticky traps can be used for insects, while special monitoring bait blocks containing fluorescent materials can be used for rodents. These blocks reflect UV light, highlighting droppings and making it easier to identify when rodents have been active.

There are also internet-connected solutions available that detect and alert to rodent activity 24/7. For example, Rentokil’s ‘PestConnect’, uses wireless technology to let a pest control technician know when a rodent has been caught. Once the trap is activated, an alert is triggered via SMS for a technician to visit the site and dispose of the pest professionally.

Rule two: know your pest

A simple understanding of what pests you’re most likely to encounter and why they are drawn to your business will play a significant role in helping you prevent a pest problem.

  • Rats and mice: a very common pest within the food manufacturing industry, as they are drawn to your premises in search of food, water and safe harbourage. They are also genetically programmed to gnaw on anything they can get their teeth on. As a result, they will quite happily gnaw their way into your business through the smallest gap, and stay hidden out of sight, where they feel safe, often in the most hard to reach places.
  • Cockroaches: another common pest found in the food business is the cockroach. They can fit into almost any nook or cranny, and are attracted to all types of food in your business. They will eat through just about anything from actual food, to food packaging materials, and they like warmth and moisture, so make sure your regularly check your sinks and appliances such as dishwashers and fridges.

It’s a good idea to empower employees with the knowledge of how to spot a pest problem. Online learning platforms are an increasingly popular method of educating employees; the benefit being that they can be accessed on demand and remotely. One such training programme is myLearning, Rentokil Pest Control’s interactive e-learning portal which helps companies train their employees on the importance of pest control within their business. PestAwareness training is specifically designed to improve employee knowledge of pest compliance issues in key areas, including health and safety and legislation.

Rule three: de-clutter

Most pests like to stay hidden out of sight. Storage containers or clutter around the premises provides rodents and other pests with a place to hide, so it’s worth moving these away from walls if possible and to make sure food and waste containers are also adequately sealed.

Rule four: fight grime

Cleaning is an important aspect of active pest control and part of any firm’s hygiene responsibilities. Food waste and other debris can be regularly found in the corners of buildings, machinery or hard-to-reach places and can develop microbial activity if it isn’t cleaned regularly. Microbial growth in a food environment is not only hazardous, but spoiling food spillages may be more attractive to certain pests such as flies which are then able spread harmful bacteria throughout the site on their bodies and in their faeces.

Daily cleaning alone will not eliminate all build-ups of grime and pathogenic bacteria, and most food factories will need an expert supplier to comprehensively inspect and then carry out a full deep clean of their facilities. In an ideal situation, a critical appraisal of the cleaning system should be undertaken where frequency of cleaning, and hazard analysis and a critical control points plan (HACCP) should be reviewed. In this process it is often wise to use ATP  swabbing to validate the cleaning efficiency and to identify areas of improvement.  A heat map of the microbiological activity on the site can often indicate key areas that may need additional attention.

Once a site has undergone an intensive deep clean, it will set a standard that can then be maintained by the regular cleaning staff.

Final words

Better understanding and implementation of prevention methods will save businesses time and money when dealing with pest infestations and the associated risks. Get in touch with a pest control expert or specialist hygiene consultant  if you are unaware of how your business might be responsible for pest infestations, or if your facility is in need of a deep clean.


Pest-prevention strategies in food processing premises