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Pest Control Management - a Vital Part of

Food Safety

Years ago, controlling pests, was the bailiwick of baseboard jockeys as they were called,
who basically used sprays containing pesticides, rodenticides (rat poison) and a host of
other substances to keep a food production facility free from insects, birds, rodents and
other unwanted guests.

Today, thats changed. Baseboard jockeys have been replaced

by skilled pest control management specialists and service technicians, who regard
prevention rather than chemical treatment as the priority. This makes good sense: if you
can keep pests from getting into or around a facility in the first place, chemical usage can
be reduced, even eliminated. And thats a big plus in food manufacturing for obvious

That said, chemicals are still needed, and still very much a part of the pest control
management industry, which in 2012 in the US billed $6.8 billion, consisted of 17,800
companies, and employed 125,000 service technicians.

A Fear and a Threat

Public health officials attribute the quality of life we have today to three things: better
pharmaceuticals and vaccines, better sanitation and better pest control. The Army
Community Service of Fort Drum, NY, cited a survey that ranked bugs and insects as the
publics third greatest fear, behind public speaking and heights.

Pests, of course, have no place in a facility that manufactures or serves food. Rats bite
45,000 people each year, and carry fever, salmonella, trichinosis, murine typhus, the
plague, leptospirosis, and other disease causing pathogens. Cockroaches and flies, by
walking through contaminated areas, the worst being sewage, can introduce e-coli,
streptococcus, molds, salmonella, yeasts, clostridia, and a host of other bacteria into food.

Every segment of the food industry nowadays is required to have an effective and
integrated pest control management program in place. HACCP standards require this,
because pest control is considered to be a critical control point. Other standards, such as
those accredited by GFSI, go further in their management and auditing requirements.

Were seeing tougher rules and regulations regarding pests all the time, and one of our
responsibilities to our clients is keeping ahead of the curve so we can help them meet new
requirements, says Mike Heimbach, Marketing Manager at Abell Pest Control in Etobicoke,
Ontario. One thing weve developed for our customers is our own Electronic Site
Management system, which our IT department can update, modify, and custom-fit for each

Member companies belonging to the Food Protection Alliance, which provides services to
companies across North America, have similar electronic management systems, as do other
large service providers. Clients nowadays want quick access to monitoring data for
mechanical traps, UV light traps, outdoor bait stations, types of pests, and other things,
says Food Protection Alliance Manager Mike Hendrickson. These systems feature hand-held
bar code readers that communicate with the clients on-line pest management software and
provide excellent analysis and audit capabilities.

Richard Kammerling works for RK Pest Management Services in Huntington Station, NY. RK
Pest Management is not a service provider, but a consulting firm that clients hire to
troubleshoot their existing pest control management programs. According to Kammerling, a
well-designed integrated pest management program (IPM) includes the following essential


Monitoring: combining electronic tracking with regular visual checks of all trap


Identification: knowing the habits and biology of pests (breeding cycles, what they
prefer as a food source, etc.).


Inspection & Facility Maintenance: Conducting regularly scheduled and thorough

inspections. Also making sure there are no cracks in building walls or around man-doors
where pests can enter. Making sure doors close quickly and stay closed.


Sanitation: Maintaining a clean environment that makes it difficult for pests to

thrive (no garbage, food residues, minimal odors, etc).


Documentation: Maintaining accurate and detailed service records (e.g., rodent

activity logs, insect light traps, glue boards, inspection reports, etc.) to assist in
continuous improvement of the overall program.


Communication: Keeping lines of communication open between service technicians

and facility management so potential problems can be anticipated and remedied as they

As consultants, we take a close look at the service technicians the customer is using to
ensure theyre properly trained, says Kammerling. If not, we train them. Pest control
management is about a lot more than just checking traps. Top management support is
critical, as is communications between service technicians and the managers of the facility.
That can become the weakest part of pest control management in our estimation."

Pesticide Risk Reduction Programs

In 2003, the Canadian government instituted the Pesticide Risk Reduction Program to meet
growing public demand for sustainable agriculture, reduce reliance on older chemical
insecticides and minimize the environmental impact of pest management programs.

This program, similar to ones in the U.S. and Britain, tended

to stress the adoption of natural and organic insecticides this, despite widely divergent
results on the relative environmental impact of organic, conventional and Integrated Pest
Management (IPM, which uses a combination of both). Policy is promoting more

biopesticides (possibly on the assumption that they are safer than synthetics), but empirical
data needs to be used to assess aspects related to human health, such as toxicity and
residues, and efficacy.

In order to accurately compare organic and synthetic insecticides in the field, researchers at
the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada used a tool called an Environmental Impact
Quotient (EIQ) to compare the relative impacts of 6 different insecticides, organic and
synthetic, targeting the soybean aphid, an invasive pest that was likely introduced to North
America by edible Edamame bouquets imported from China.

In particular, the scientists measured the rate of mortality of the soybean aphid, and two
key natural predators (the multicoloured Asian ladybeetle and insidious flower bug), when
exposed to the various insecticides at field rates. They wanted to determine both how
effective the products were at targeting the pest, and how they impacted the natural
predators that provide biocontrol benefits.

Dr. Rebecca Hallett, Associate Professor with the Universitys School of Environmental
Sciences, was a Chief Researcher on the project. She explained that there are two key
factors that need to be taken into consideration when measuring relative risks of
insecticides: toxicity and exposure. Toxicity is determined in laboratory tests and varies
between products. Exposure is determined by the amount of insecticide needed to be
effective. Both variables impact the efficacy of the product, and need to be looked at in
tandem to determine net environmental impact.

You cant take it for granted that lower per unit toxicity means lower risk application rates
also play a role, explains Rebecca. We found the organic products not only provided less
yield protection, but had the potential to cause more harm to the environment because
theyre less selective and are applied at high rates.

The study results showed the benefits of using synthetic pesticides to control the soybean
aphid, including a higher selectivity (the degree to which the insecticide impacts solely the
pest of concern and not the beneficial natural enemy insects), lower EIQs in the field and
more consistent yield protection.

However, the real advancement in this type of study is the use of an empirical tool to
objectively compare the environmental impact of organic and synthetic insecticides in
agricultural systems.

We didnt set out on this study with the purpose of determining whether conventional was
better than organic or vice versa, explains Rebecca. Anyone who farms organic will tell
you that theres a lot more at play than lowering reliance on chemical insecticides;
maintaining long term soil health and biodiversity, for example," says Rebecca. "Basing
policy decisions and industry best practices on ideological generalizations regarding the risks
of organic versus synthetic insecticides will not provide the tools we need to be sustainable.
We need to generate data and look at risk in an empirical sense in order to do whats best
for the environment.

Regardless of whether a program is organic, conventional or a mixture of both in the form of

IPM, a common ground can be found in the desire to be sustainable to provide a healthy,
plentiful food supply with longevity. Studies such as this reflect the growing need to find
balance between robust agricultural systems and preserving the natural environment, and
sometimes this means changing our definition of what being sustainable is.

Integrated Pest Management: Partnering to Improve Food Safety

Customer found a mouse in his food product. The mouse came from the processing plant. The
pest control specialist had identified sanitation and structural deficiencies at the plant and
documented them in his reports. Yet plant management had not ensured that corrective actions
were taken. Whose fault was it, the food processor or the pest control company?

Photo courtesy of Orkin Canada

Pest control specialists can only do so much to protect the food supply, says Dr.
Zia Siddiqi, Director of Quality Systems at Orkin. The truth is, food business
operators have to take an active role in integrated pest management by working
closely with the specialists.
In the last few years, pest control has become more technically involved, with licencing and
restrictions on chemicals, Dr. Siddiqi says.
"An integrated
pest management (IPM)
Tighter regulations for food safety, occupational health and
plan has elements that
are similar to a
safety, and the environment mean in-house pest control isnt
food safety
an option for many food businesses these days. And since
management plan"

pests behave differently even within a species, controlling

them effectively requires special knowledge of the pests
themselves, as well as ways to safely and efficientlymanage
Pests in the Food Industry

An integrated pest management (IPM) plan has elements that are similar to
a food safety management plan
Cockroaches, rodents and flies are the main pest issues in food businesses," says Dr.
Other insects, and birds, can also be a food safety concern. Cockroaches and flies carry and
transfer pathogens. Mice and rats spread Salmonella and other pathogens as they defecate
and urinate during their travels. All of these pests can contribute general filth - a "yuck
factor" - to food.
No matter what type of pest your operation needs to manage, having a pest management
professional on your team is an effective way to reduce the risk of contamination to food.
These specialists use an integrated approach to pest management.
The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Approach
An integrated pest management (IPM) plan has elements that are similar to a food safety
management plan. It is a proactive approach to managing pests, says Dr. Siddiqi, and
uses chemicals only as a last resort.
IPM focuses on sanitation and property maintenance, he says. It also includes sanitary
design and staff training. These pest-prevention activities are similar to elements of prerequisite programs.
Other elements of IPM are like the seven principles of HACCP:

1. Analyze the pest hazards Look at the facility and its location to determine what the
potential pest pressure would be. An operation near a swamp or open fields will
have different natural pressures than one in an industrial area in a large city.

2. Identify critical areas where pests might enter and live Consider incoming supplies
and ingredients that could bring pests in; look for potential nesting areas or
conditions conducive to attracting pests and/or allowing them to survive.

3. Establish critical pest-limits Determine the number of pests in an acceptable range.

Maybe 5 meal moths are within a critical limit but 6 are too many.

4. Monitor critical control points Set appropriate traps and monitoring systems in the
areas identified as key locations were pests are likely to be found.

5. Establish corrective actions Specify the actions to take when critical pest-limits are

6. Verify Effectiveness Know which measures have been proven to safely and
effectively manage the pests likely to be found in the facility.

7. Keep Records Document the integrated pest management plan, monitoring

activities and corrective actions.
Pest Management Partnership
Food businesses can reduce food safety risk by establishing an effective pest-management
partnership with their pest management professionals. This means taking an active role in
integrated pest management.
When pest control was done in-house, all responsibility for success was with the food
business. If outsourced, the food business must realize it has an equal role to play in pest
control with the pest management professional, says Dr. Siddiqi.
The pest management professional can take whichever level of responsibility the facility
needs. According to Dr. Siddiqi, this could include training employees to be on the lookout
for pests.
Both parties must have a clear understanding of what each other is responsible for doing,
he says.
About the Author

Brita Ball, PhD, CTDP, supports food businesses wanting to improve their culture of food safety
and bottom line. She is a food safety specialist, principal consultant at Brita Ball & Associates,
and Adjunct Professor at the University of Guelph. Brita is a regular contributor and an Industry
Advisor to Global Food Safety Resource.