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The new year is fast approaching, and many facility managers are hard at work developing strategies to make 2019 a success. While resolutions to be more productive and budget-conscious are imperative to the success of any business, a commitment to pest prevention is a resolution facility managers also need to make. Pests can cause widespread illness outbreaks, and coupled with poor sanitation, results can be disastrous. So, diligent pest control is one New Year’s resolution facility managers cannot afford to break.

Rodents present the biggest problem, as their droppings can transmit pathogens that cause diseases including Hantavirus and salmonellosis. The house fly can carry more than 100 kinds of disease-causing germs and moves from garbage and excrement to fresh food and other surfaces, contaminating processing equipment. Cockroaches are known to spread at least 33 kinds of bacteria, six kinds of parasitic worms, and at least seven other kinds of human pathogens, and they can pick up germs and debris on their legs and transfer them to food surfaces and processing equipment. Stored product pests can infest plant equipment and contaminate food by leaving body parts and cast skins which can get ground up into products or infest flour, grains, and cereals.

The best method of pest control in food processing facilities is Integrated Pest Management (IPM), whereby facility managers work with their pest control professional partners to inspect, identify, recommend, treat, and evaluate pest hot spots to prevent infestations. In addition to contacting a licensed pest control professional to inspect your facility, you can address the following nine hot spots now to get a jumpstart on your New Year’s resolution:

  1. Equipment. One of the most frequent areas of infestations is within the equipment, as it has many nooks and crannies that provide ideal temperatures, humidity, and food supply to help pest populations flourish. Consider replacing metal cover cleaner plates with plexiglass to allow for easier inspection without having to disassemble equipment.
  2. Plumbing. Cockroaches prefer warm, moist, dark environments, and often enter structures through floor drains and utility pipes. Flies are similarly attracted to sinks, floor drains, and bathrooms, so these areas should be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent moisture and debris buildup that could be conducive to an infestation.
  3. Storage Areas. Proper storage and stock rotation are essential in preventing an infestation. All items should be stored up off the floor on pallets and at least 18 inches from walls to create an aisle, making pest inspections easier to conduct. Also consider painting the aisle white so that pests and their droppings are easily visible.
  4. Entry Points. Mice can fit through a hole the size of a dime and rodents through a hole the size of a quarter, so it’s imperative to seal any cracks or crevices in the structure, including entry points for utilities and pipes, with silicone caulk and steel wool. Institute a “no-prop” door policy, and install air curtains or screens to keep flying insects out.
  5. Waste Management. Ensure the facility has an adequate waste management system in place. Garbage should be stored in sealed containers at all times and disposed of on a regular basis. If there is a dumpster on the property, it should be kept away from entryways, have a working lid that remains closed, and be emptied regularly.
  6. Landscaping. Vegetation that is too close to the building can attract pests, increasing the likelihood that they will find their way inside. To prevent this, install a gravel or rock perimeter to discourage  vegetative growth that could invite and harbor pests.
  7. Proper Drainage. Many pests are attracted to moisture, so make sure the building has proper drainage at its foundation to prevent moisture buildup. This includes installing downspouts, gutters and diverts to channel water away from the building and ensure excess water doesn’t accumulate.
  8. Lighting. Lighting plays a key role in either attracting or discouraging pests from setting upon a facility. Sodium vapor lights are the least attractive to pests and should be installed as far from the building as possible. Conversely, mercury-vapor lights are very attractive to pests and should not be used within 150 feet of any food processing facility.
  9. Structural Integrity. Repair fascia, soffits, and rotted roof shingles, as some insects are drawn to deteriorating wood. Replace weather-stripping and repair loose mortar around the building’s foundation and windows, as these also could serve as entry points if damaged or decaying.

Pest management is most effective when conducted in partnership with a licensed pest control professional, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait for an inspection to enact pest-proofing measures that could protect your facility from an infestation. So, as you reflect on 2018 and make resolutions for 2019, be sure to add proactive pest management at the top of your list.