We all have had them at one time or another, in small numbers or large. Some that fly, some that run, and yet others that stand still and look at you as if you're disturbing them. Today, we will examine some of the common ones: rats, mice, cockroaches and flies. One of the most revolting things a customer can see is a fly or cockroach among the baked goods in the display case. Yuck! The customer's thought goes immediately to something else flies tend to land on. Customers will perceive that your food establishment is not clean and hygienic, which can result in the loss of business. A pest is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as an insect or small animal that is harmful or damages crops.
More than the physical damage that they may cause, the riskier damage is unseen. This damage is of a higher risk because though it can't be seen, it however is eventually felt when our bodies display adverse reactions from contaminated food. Examples of this reaction include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
The reality is pests are a part of our ecosystem; however, they must be controlled since their bodies are vehicles for contaminants that are easily transferred to foods, surfaces, equipment and utensils.
Pest control is considered a prerequisite for food safety; its focus must be on prevention. Usually, our first reaction to sighting pests is the use of pesticides; this is considered a correction. However, there are pesticides that are not approved for use in food handling areas; which is a concern. Additionally, aerosol insect sprays will contaminate surfaces leading to stopping of production/processing to conduct a clean-down.
A food business operator must move away from just the routine application of pesticides and get to a place of considering pest prevention; this is an integrated pest management approach. This approach will incorporate pest management strategies that are applicable to the site-specific conditions of your operations.
Hint: No two locations are alike; the approach to pest management must be specific to each location.
Reacting to an insect sighting with the use of insecticide is merely a quick fix. This, however, does not stop further insect sightings. What is needed is a corrective action that is aimed at preventing recurrence; an integrated pest management programme is one such solution. It does not only use one element of control; instead, it is a combination of control methods that is based on the type of facility and products. The aim of this programme is to prevent pests and/or eradicate any infestation. It is based on objective evidence gathered from activities such as inspection, monitoring and reports. This programme must correctly identify what pests are in the facility, determine the best treatment plan, evaluate effectiveness, and monitor to ensure the programme is working.
While pests are all around us, how we treat our environment and oversee our process will help to ensure manageable levels. Here are some basic pointers:
1. Clean spills, including food crumbs, as soon as they happen.
2. Discard food scraps in designated containers.
3. Prevent harbourage sites.
4. Raise awareness among staff and other personnel.