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  • Writer's pictureChelle Hartzer

Be Afraid, Very Afraid (AKA: Looking through the data)

Last week was Bed Bug Awareness Week and I wrote a brilliant post on bed bugs for you. As if bed bugs weren't scary enough, last week was also Food Safety Week, so let’s take a look at that terrifying topic.

Food safety obviously encompasses more than just pest control, but pest control is a huge part of it and can impact (or be impacted) by the conditions. It can also cost a company. Here’s a list of the most recent FDA inspection observations.

Notice that there were 2399 citations issued to food facilities! Again, not all those were pest related, so let’s break them down. This is the top 12 categories (had the most violations).

Foreign supplier verification programs (lack thereof) were the highest at 727 of the citations. Coming in second, almost 8% of the citations were for pest control. Not only can you get cited, you can get shut down, fined, and even taken to court for these violations. Remember the Peanut Corporation of America? Or more recently the Dollar Store? Those are just the big ones.

When you look at the next big category, Sanitatory Operations-plant maintenance, you have almost 7% of the citations. But wait! If you take all the other “sanitation” failures, it turns into just under 30%. Here’s what those look like:

  • Sanitary operations - Plant maintenance:162

  • Sanitary operations - Plant sanitation: 95

  • Sanitation of food-contact surfaces - Frequency: 82

  • Sanitary facilities and controls: 70

  • Sanitation monitoring: 67

  • Sanitation of non-food-contact surfaces - Manner and frequency: 36

  • Sanitation Records: 31

  • Cleaning and sanitizing substances - Safe and adequate: 29

  • Sanitation preventive controls - Appropriate (Adequate): 25

  • Sanitation Controls Procedures:19

  • Sanitation Controls Verif Procedures: Establish Implement:19

  • Sanitation monitoring:16

  • Sanitation Controls Monitoring Proced: Establish Implement:15

  • Sanitation preventive controls - Implement:12

  • Food contact surface sanitary inspection and maintenance:11

  • Procedures - equipment - cleaning, sanitizing: 8

  • Sanitation Controls Corrective Action Proced: Estab Implemnt: 7

Anyone involved in any aspect of pest control knows the importance of sanitation. Pests need food water and shelter. Reducing or even eliminating any one of those means pest populations have to work harder to find resources. Then, they aren’t finding mates, reproducing, or creating the next generations. Theoretically, perfect sanitation means no resources for the pests and the populations will die out. Realistically, it is not possible to completely eliminate food in a food processing facility! In these cases, just reducing the amount and access pests have to resources will decrease their populations, making them easier to control. A good pest control company/department is going to inspect and document where sanitation issues exist.

There's even more! These are other categories with citations that have a relation to pest management:

  • Storage and Distribution – if storage conditions are infested, the product will become infested.

  • Training of employees – simple training of employees on what to look for when it comes to pests means early warning of problems.

  • Grounds – many pest problems start on the outside, if grounds aren’t kept, pests creep closer and have more potential to get in.

  • Having records available – if it doesn’t get written down, it didn’t get done. Pest control records have to be kept and available.

  • Buildings preventing contamination – if there are structural issues, pests can get in. Exclusion is important to keep “stuff” out.

  • Stray animals – yeah, what else can be said about this?

Then there are all the citations for allergens and allergen controls. While this is tangential to pest control, we know that flies, cockroaches, rodents, and other pests can transfer pieces of food and pathogens from one area to another.

If this seems like a lot to you, it is. Even simple food processing sites that make just one product are complicated systems. One thing lacking or failing can cause a cascade of other problems. Pest control is essential in many accounts, but definitely in food processing and storage. That cascade of problems can result in fines, deaths, shut downs, loss of consumer confidence, and more.

If you want help to service food facilities well, we can help you with all aspects of that from setting up an IPM plan to regularly servicing them and troubleshooting.

If you are a food processing facility and need an independent assessment of your program or any current issues, we do that.

Either way, contact us before that cascade starts to happen.

Note – numbers are based on anything with five or more citations.

Urban pest consulting

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