Corporate “mandates” that focus only on the bottom line may be shortsighted; often forcing pest managers and facility managers to react to crisis rather than proactively provide Quality Control Procedures and adherence to appropriate standards of sanitation, pest prevention, food safety, etc. Recent incidents have forced government agencies to step in with more regulations to protect consumers.
Clients, particularly within the food and beverage industry, often undergo 3rd party audits from AIB, SQF, BRC, FDA, etc. Your pest control provider must partner with you to define, design, and inspect procedures and policies to put your interests first; otherwise you may receive a poor audit finding. If your pest control provider procedures cannot pass muster with the auditor, your business may be in trouble.
How often do your review your service provider’s procedures? Are they providing you with Comprehensive Quality Assurance Reviews? Minor problems can become a major crisis very quickly. As a food processor, manufacturer, distributor, medical facility, restaurant, grocery or even a big box retailer; you should be able to rely on your in-house quality assurance team and your pest control provider to assist you in maintaining the highest standards of sanitation and a pest free environment so you can concentrate on providing a safe product and environment to the consumer. (See accompanying photos for poor maintenance issues that could lead to problems for your facility)
Black widow spiders, although common in many areas, don’t belong inside rodent bait stations; potentially putting pest control staff and clients at risk. According to National Geographic, black widows are considered the most venomous spider in North America. Per NCSU; their venom is reported to be 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake’s. Although highly poisonous; they are not aggressive and rarely bite humans. Only the bites of the females can be regarded as a threat to human health. And contrary to popular belief, most victims do not suffer serious damage. “Bites from this spider very rarely result in death,” however, individuals at risk include the very young, very old and sick. Finding poorly maintained rodent bait stations may be a sign that the client is not getting the level of service they believe they are getting. Don’t discover this from a report by a competitor.
Data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 1 in 6 Americans get sick each year from foodborne illnesses; something that is largely preventable. These illnesses can be caused by contamination from many sources; including sanitation, flies, insects, rodents, even birds. Appropriate pest control services have become a “Critical Function” for all companies and even more so for those involved in the processing, manufacturing, storage, or serving of food products.
The FDA’s power has been significantly enhanced by the sweeping changes brought about by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The FDA has a legislative mandate to require comprehensive, prevention-based controls across the food supply chain. For the first time, FDA now has mandatory recall authority for all food products. In the past, companies often relied upon their own voluntary recall of products from the consumer. Voluntary recalls were a significant benefit to manufacturers because the manufacturers were then able to control the news narrative to the public. If the FDA forces a mandatory recall of a consumer product due to a potential problem; the government will control the news cycle and narrative to the public. This often works against the best interest of the manufacturer.
Pro-active facilities have a significant advantage. It is critical that in-house safety personnel and your pest management provider develop a pest management plan that will account for all aspects of sanitation, housekeeping and pest management. A working knowledge of the biological, ecological and environmental considerations of the facility is crucial, as these aspects are key to best pest prevention practices and will reduce threats.
Having a formal plan in place that meets a Hazards Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) program, facilities must be aware of potential hazards to prevent pests. Identifying hazards goes together with being aware of the environment. For example, a warehouse that is both mild in temperature, damp and dark; requires that controls need to be identified and put into place to prevent risk for associated pests. Entry or high traffic points need to be monitored closely and written “pest threshold” protocols need to be formulated and put into place. Numerous guidelines are available from many organizations and Quality Assurance Reviews on a regular basis are critical to assist in maintaining standards for the benefit of the end consumer.
Food Safety Magazine has tracked food product recalls issued in the U.S. and Canada. Last year, 2016 saw 764 food recalls, a 22 percent surge compared to 2015. Undeclared allergens, along with Listeria contamination were the primary reasons. The biggest offenders included milk, eggs, peanuts and wheat. To a lesser extent, contamination of products by Listeria is very difficult to manage, but potentially deadly, none the less. People at higher risk, include pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. The CDC estimates that Listeria is the third leading cause of death from food poisoning in the United States. Listeria is particularly persistent as it thrives in cool temperatures and even refrigeration. Thorough cooking and pasteurization is very important. Listeria and Salmonella are found in soil and water. Food may be contaminated through rodent droppings, urine and even from bird droppings.
A manufacturer’s pro-active focus on regular reviews of in-house safety and sanitation programs in conjunction with your pest control providers goes a long way to protecting the consumer. This type of focus is what protects your bottom-line in the long run.