As an auditor for over 35 years, I have noticed most food facilities do not fully understand the fundamentals of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Many know about pest control, but they do not quite grasp the full power of establishing an effective IPM plan.

There are five steps for establishing an effective IPM plan:

1) Identify the Target Pests 
To create your IPM plan, you need to first fully identify the target pests for your facility and the surrounding area. This includes all pests, and is not limited to only the ones the local pest control contractor covers under their service plan. I have heard stories about deer, dogs and even chickens getting into facilities where they don’t belong. I’ve also seen facilities with hundreds of stray cats around the outside of the plant; others with thousands of birds flying outside; and some where bats, raccoons, possums and even an alligator managed to get inside.

2) Monitor for the Pests
Once the target pests have been identified both outside (birds, rodents, and small animals) and inside (cockroaches, flies, ants, and various stored product pests like beetles and weevils), you need to establish monitoring. This includes light traps, glue traps, mechanical traps, bait traps, pheromone traps, etc. This will provide insight into any activity for these pests in and around your facility. Remember the key is to prevent these pests from entering your facility. This can be done in a variety of ways, including physical barriers and biological controls such as plants, or other animals to repel the target pest. I visited a facility once that used trained falcons to fly around the facility once every week for a few weeks to remove the bird population from the area.

3) Prevent the Presence of Pests
Once you have the target pest identified, you can determine the likes and dislikes of that pest and use those to your advantage for prevention. For instance, there are certain plants that repel specific pests, such as insects, to keep them away from a facility. Manufacturers can use these plants in the landscaping scheme for their buildings. There are also specific types of mulch and decorative accessories you can place around the building to prevent pests from entering.

It is also important to ensure the building is sealed on the outside around pipes, extractor fans, roof protrusions, windows, door seals, etc. Many pests, such as ants, crickets, earwigs and field mice only need a very small hole to gain access to a building. Periodically schedule inspections of the facility walls, roof and floors to ensure pests cannot find an entry point. Even a wide crack in the concrete floor can allow ants living underneath the building to gain entry looking for food and water. Remove debris and overgrown vegetation from around the building. Drain any water away from the building that may draw pests closer to your facility. Pests are often looking for shelter, food and water, so controlling these factors is key in preventing pest infestations.

4) Control Pests that Manage to Enter a Facility Using Various Methods 
If the prevention of pests fails, then you have to come up with an effective control to eliminate the pest. This can be done by catching and removing the pest, guiding them out of the facility or killing them and removing them yourself. There are several methods of control to consider, depending upon various factors that apply to your operation. These methods include: mechanical traps and bait traps, pheromones, heat treatment, cold treatment and finally the application of a pesticide as a last resort.

5) Document the Plan Activities 
All of these activities must be documented to analyze trends over time and to provide proof to auditors and regulators of an effective pest management program that meets current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs).

Mérieux NutriSciences offers a two-day course that addresses these Integrated Pest Management steps in more depth with exercises on establishing an effective IPM system. Isn’t it about time you harnessed Integrated Pest Management for your facility? We’re offering this course later this year in Rosemont, IL. Additionally, this course or any of our other food safety trainings can be customized and brought directly to your staff through our onsite training program.

Meet the Author

Jeff Strout
Technical Consultant, Mérieux NutriSciences

Jeff Strout is a food safety trainer and consultant with extensive food industry experience as an auditor. Jeff educates on current and relevant topics and provides insight to the entire food industry for SQF, BRC, Food Defense, HACCP, Seafood HACCP as well as other areas of food safety and regulatory compliance.

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