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  • Writer's pictureChelle Hartzer

Sweating the Small Stuff (AKA: Know what makes me sick?)

Picture this: it’s the holidays and you have friends and relatives over for a party, or maybe it’s the office holiday party. Of course there is lots of food. Everyone leaves happy and full. Even the flies and cockroaches and rodents. Tomorrow everyone is sick. A few people have to go to the hospital. What did you do to all those people?!?! More importantly, how do we stop it?

Tracing a food-borne illness back to its starting point isn’t easy. When you break it down to raw ingredients we may be eating hundreds of different foods every day. Isolating that one item and connecting it to all the other people who may have gotten sick is tricky. Right now there is a salmonella outbreak linked to cantaloupes, a warning issued to a noodle plant, another issued to an egg firm, a Listeria issue from peaches and nectarines, and drug resistant E. coli in pet food. If that’s not enough, there was an E. coli outbreak in a daycare center that sickened 450 children (out of about 2,000). Those are just the ones that hit the top of my news feed this week.

What do all of these things have in common? Aside from causing lots of people to become seriously ill, they are all linked to unsanitary conditions and pest problems. From the warning letter to the egg producer:

  • found the presence of  Salmonella, flies, rodents and more violations

  • the firm did not remove debris within a poultry house and vegetation and debris outside a poultry house that may provide harborage for pests

  • numerous flies swarming near spent grain and discarded food in a trash can on the exterior

  • spilled feed (approximately three feet wide) located at the front of house

  • insect activity in and around the unused equipment stored around house

  • a deceased rodent outside in a large pile of apparent spilled feed outside house

  • investigators observed numerous live (and dead) rodents and flies within and around their poultry houses, despite records indicating satisfactory control.

That last one is especially concerning because it means that the pest control team either didn't do their job and were lying, or they weren't documenting what they were finding.

Pest control is so much more than just preventing and eliminating pests. It’s about sanitation, water issues, inspection zones, even employee hygiene. Focusing on food facilities, major audit standards have about 1-2 pages directly related to pest management plants. At least a quarter of the rest of those standards are indirectly linked to pest management.

These and other food-borne and pest-dispersed issues aren’t just giving people a little stomach trouble, they are sending people to the hospital and deaths are resulting. Facilities can get shut down, fined, and jail time can be served up. If you aren’t sure that your pest management program is sufficient, it likely isn’t. Do you want to keep guessing or do you want the confidence of knowing that plan is working to protect the food, people, and business? We can do that for you. It is the little stuff (insects, rodents, bacteria, viruses!) that matters.


Lagniappe – technology can make tracing a lot easier. In France, an outbreak of botulism is being traced by credit card purchases!

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