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While 94% percent of respondents report that they see their control efforts as being successful, 66% still had rodent sightings.

Even if only those with interior sightings were to be counted, this still encompasses nearly half of the respondents. And even a single rodent sighting by a regulatory or standards inspector can result in a noncompliance notice, warning letter or failure because of the food contamination potential and public health threat.

So, what more could facilities be doing?

While both have been available for a few years, two of the most recent technologies in rodent control are new methods in electronic monitoring and reproductive control.

Although QA’s survey showed that about half of respondents are familiar with and/or interested in both, a much lower percentage use either, with only 18% incorporating electronic monitoring into their rodent control efforts and 21% using reproductive control.

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Just 4% of those who don’t use electronic monitoring stated that they were unfamiliar with the use, with the second most common reason for lack of use being the perception of cost (12%).

Nearly half of those who don’t use reproductive controls stated that it was because of a lack of familiarity with the technology.

Here's a review of these control methods:

  • Reproductive control. Because rodents are always in search of food and water, baits can be very effective — in this case, a contraceptive bait. Rodent consumption of the bait reduces fertility, accelerating natural egg loss in female rats and decreasing reproductive capacity in male rats. By targeting both genders, populations can be more quickly eradicated.
  • Electronic monitoring. Trapping has been brought into the technical era through sensors that identify rodent activity in the trap. In most cases, the systems are wireless, with the sensor sending a signal to software from which notifications are made. The monitoring not only provides alerts on rodents, but also enables digital reporting for ongoing tracking and trending to facilitate proactive response and prevention.
Source: Readex Research; Respondents: 88 (reproductive control), 90 (electronic monitoring)
Source: Readex Research; Respondents: 113

The next most common reason for not using these two technologies is a lack of upper management interest, according to respondents. Convincing senior management of the need for a food safety budget increase can be a challenge, and requesting it specifically for better rodent control may be even tougher.

One potential way to address it is from a regulatory and cost-to-not-implement standpoint. Pests have been a top cause of FDA inspection citations for years, and the passage of FSMA gave the agency even more ammunition, with pest control becoming a required aspect of the Preventive Controls Food Safety Plan.

Add to that the numerous recalls caused by pest contamination, particularly the case of Family Dollar Store distribution center rodent infestation. Not only was the finding of more than 1,000 rodents in the facility the cause of closure of 404 stores, but it resulted in a recall that cost the company $34 million.

Rodent control, whether focused on mice, rats or both, is an essential aspect of food safety, and the more methods that can be implemented to prevent, capture and control their presence and contamination, the safer your products — and consumers — will be.