All businesses want effective pest control, but it is non-negotiable for food handling verticals such as the cold chain environment. Facility managers cannot risk pest introductions when the safety of perishable goods and the standard of their reputations are on the line. Plus, food is a natural attractant for pests, and supply chains offer several opportunities for pests to infiltrate your product. This is why it is crucial to implement integrated pest management (IPM) practices along the cold chain.
What is integrated pest management?
IPM is a sustainable, comprehensive approach to pest control that prioritizes prevention techniques over chemical treatments. IPM is a natural fit for the cold chain environment because it limits chemical treatments to last-resort situations, and when necessary, employs the least-hazardous options available for each situation. At its core, an IPM program is based on assessing the situation, implementing solutions, and monitoring results.
In your company’s quest to effectively keep pests at bay, the following steps will help ensure you’re following IPM best practices:
1. Inspect. The first step in any IPM program is a thorough inspection of your facility. The goal is to identify any potential pest entry points, such as cracks in the building’s foundation or damaged weather stripping on doors and windows, as well as pest “hot spots.” Hot spots are areas that often offer food, water, and/or shelter to pests if not frequently monitored, such as:
- Loading zones. As products come and go, so can pests. Areas where doors are frequently left open should be thoroughly inspected for signs of pest activity.
- Storage closets. This relatively undisturbed environment appeals to pests that like warm, dark places. Storage closets also frequently harbor materials that attract pests, such as cardboard and damp rags or mops.
- Dumpsters. This one likely isn’t surprising. Pests, especially rodents, love gnawing through boxes and food debris that can be found in the garbage at your facility. Your pest management professional will look to see if trash cans have well-fitting lids. They’ll also make sure dumpster areas are well-maintained and in appropriate locations.
- Floor drains. Although they’re easy to overlook, these hiding spaces are a perfect environment for pests like flies and cockroaches. It doesn’t matter if they are wet or dry because they like both options. The professionals will look to make sure your drains are clean and provide recommendations for keeping pests out.
2. Prevent. The best offense is a good defense. The foundation of any successful IPM program is the prevention of pests in the first place. This is done through regular sanitation practices and keeping up with building maintenance. Regularly clean storage facilities, processing equipment, break rooms, restrooms and transportation vehicles to limit pest attractants. Replace any broken window screens, seal holes and install loading zone air curtains to help keep flying pests from entering. Consider your landscaping – keeping shrubbery and tree limbs at least two feet away from the foundation will help avoid insects from using foliage as a freeway into the building.
3. Treat. Once a pest management professional has inspected your property and provided recommendations for pest prevention, the next step in an IPM program is treating any existing pest issues. This could include anything from bird abatement services to placing cockroach bait, and treatment should be catered to your unique situation, such as your facility’s location and the types of products it handles.
4. Monitor. Pest management programs are ongoing – they do not stop once existing pest problems are resolved. Consistent monitoring is essential to ensure your program is adapting to your needs, as well as to make sure any pest introductions are caught before they evolve into infestations that could wreak havoc on your business. This can be done through pest monitoring devices and during your pest management professional’s regular visits, but employee involvement is also key. By training your employees on pest hot spots, warning signs, and what to do if they see something, you will be better prepared to catch a pest problem early on. Many pest management professionals offer staff training – check with your provider and set up an appointment to help your staff remain vigilant in the fight against pests.
IPM helps ensure your facility and product are protected from pests, while minimizing any negative effects on the environment. With IPM, the impact employees have on a pest management program’s success is clear. By following your pest management professional’s recommendations for exclusion and sanitation practices, and by training staff what to look for, pest control becomes more manageable – and successful -- as part of day-to-day operations.