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Brittany Campbell, Ph.D. , Staff Entomologist, National Pest Management Association

The notion of spring cleaning can, and should, be applied to more than just the living room and office. But if you did not get to it this spring, now is the time to take stock of your food processing plants to ensure cleanliness and compliance.

To aid in this effort, facility managers should bring in a pest control professional to help implement an integrated pest management (IPM) plan: a holistic approach comprised of inspection, identification, and treatment to help keep commercial food plants safe, clean, and profitable.

To ensure compliance, your pest control partner will assess your facility to make sure it is adhering to all sanitation standards, including pest management laws and regulations set forth by the government. There are several government agencies dedicated to regulating the operations in food processing facilities, including the  Food and Drug Administration (FDA); U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA); and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These organizations work in tandem to enforce regulations and ensure that food processing facilities are following proper protocols to make the cleanest, safest products possible. To ensure compliance, an understanding of each agency and the standards set forth by each is paramount.

GOVERNING BODIES AND REGULATIONS.FDA is responsible for protecting public health by ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply. USDA is the federal executive department responsible for developing and executing federal laws related to farming, forestry, and some foods. OSHA is a part of the U.S. Department of Labor and was created to assure safe and healthy conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. EPA is responsible for the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which is the regulation of pesticide distribution, sale, and use. Together, these government-regulated organizations create rules and standards by which all commercial food processors must abide.

FD&C AND FSMA. In addition to the laws set forth by these governing bodies, there are also two acts all food processors must follow: The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 (FD&C) and the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). FD&C established the criteria for the safety of food, drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics, and developed good manufacturing practices. Under this act, the food processor, and in some instances, the pest management company, are held in violation of federal law if food is deemed adulterated or contaminated to the point of hazard.

FSMA was signed into law in 2011 as an amendment to the FD&C and was the first major piece of legislation to address food safety since the original act in 1938. FSMA gives more power to FDA to issue recalls on contaminated grown, harvested, and processed foods, and allows the administration to better regulate food safety and protect the public from illness.

AREAS OF CONCERN. Although the steps needed to maintain compliance with sanitation and pest management regulations can be meticulous and extensive, this is often much more cost effective than waiting until an infestation has a chance to take hold.

There are countless areas and environments within a food processing plant that serve as ideal conditions for pests, including:

  • Raw food items and packaging materials entering a plant can carry pests such as rodents, flies, cockroaches, and ants. Tip: Carefully inspect deliveries; pest-proof all walls, windows, doors, and roofs; and make sure any cracks are sealed.
  • Food odors throughout the plant attract insects that can potentially contaminate food and spread diseases, such as cockroaches. Tip: Position all equipment and materials off the floor and away from walls.
  • Exterior lighting fixtures are a beacon for pests, including spiders, ants, and flies. Tip: Low-sodium lights attract fewer insects and should be used where possible.
  • Warm temperatures and moist processing areas are the perfect magnet for pests, including mice and rats, and insects such as cockroaches and flies. Tip: Install floor drains where needed and remove unnecessary sources of moisture.

INSPECTING FOR COMPLIANCE. Many food processing facilities also operate 24 hours a day, making it difficult to ensure that proper pest management and sanitation measures are being implemented 100% of the time.

As such, regular sanitation inspections with a licensed pest control company can help facility managers comply with the federal regulations and avoid regulatory action.

It is crucial that the selected pest management firm is well-versed in pest-related activity and patterns in food processing plants, since inspections in processing facilities are vastly different from home and other commercial property inspections.

The pest management professional must observe every operation that takes place in the plant and consider all factors that would allow pests to enter, survive, and thrive in a food processing facility.

By scheduling regular inspections with a licensed pest control company, facility managers will be made aware of any potential problems and how to correct them before they become a real hazard to the operation and the public or end-user.

Scheduling regular inspections with a certified pest control professional can help food processing facilities ensure both production and profitability remain steady. Through this partnership, facility managers will have a better understanding of the steps necessary to follow the laws, regulations, and guidelines set forth by the governing agencies responsible for protecting public health.