Staff participation and vigilance – the key to pest prevention

Health and safety regulations in the food industry are increasingly becoming more stringent, and pest control measures have shifted accordingly to become more proactive and preventative. The Baker takes a look at prevention mechanisms and what the common failings are.

Beyond the nuisance factor, pests are a serious hygiene hazard, and once food that’s been contaminated through a pest infestation reaches the consumer, it can have serious financial and reputational repercussions – never mind a loss of customer and employee trust and in severe cases, the temporary closure of the business

The presence of pests in any food handling premises is unacceptable. Prevention is better than cure – as the saying goes – and ultimately, bakeries need to take a proactive approach to eliminate, or radically reduce the chances of a pest infestation rather than trying to control or eradicate infestations when they become problematic. An integrated pest management (IPM) programme would include an assessment or audit of any potential problems, corrective action and preventative measures for other areas, and continual monitoring to measure the programme’s successes and failings.

Pests need three things: food, water and a place to live. If a bakery can eliminate any or all of these, it greatly reduces the chances of an infestation. Working with a professional pest control company can provide an extra sets of eyes to look for hidden insects and bugs in areas that otherwise may be overlooked. Pest control inspectors will generally look at the physical condition of the building, for spilled food products, storage and cleanliness of the facility as well as waste removal. They will check how well waste systems area sealed and make recommendations for prevention.

Whether a baker makes use of a contractor for pest management or decides to oversee the program themselves, the most important aspect of pest prevention is staff training. Bakeries need to ensure that staff members are trained to recognise the pests they are most likely to encounter in their daily work routine, and what action they should take should they the culprit. Particular attention should be given to incoming goods such as raw materials and packaging.

While this will mean allocating time and resources to educate and train employees on pest management programs, it is crucial that employees understand how and why certain measures are being put in place. Without their vigilance and proper reporting, critters could literally slip through the cracks.

Some of the most common failings of pest management programmes are an over-reliance on third-party audits as well as a lack of monitoring and measurement. Essentially there is often a failure to correctly place, observe and maintain traps. Monitoring and reporting any potential weaknesses of a bakery’s defences against pests are central to the programme’s success.

Pest management techniques

Gone are the days where it was acceptable to lay down poison or traps and use them as an indicator of pest activity. Instead, modern pest management programmes should aim to reduce the use of pesticides, particularly outdoors, through enhanced prevention programmes based on proofing and hygiene. This includes knowledge of the baking facility and its history, as well as determining the potential for infestation through regular and thorough inspections. This should ultimately replace perimeter baiting as the first line of defence.

When undertaking an inspection and making an analysis of the potential pest infestation risk, bakeries should ask the following questions:

  • Are pests active at the time of the inspection?
  • Is there documented evidence that pests have been active in the last two years?
  • Does the location, layout, construction, manufacturing process, hygiene practices or product lend itself towards infestation? Factors to consider are any water courses, railways, or amenity sites nearby and whether or not the facility is situated within or adjacent to a high risk area
  • Are the activities of adjacent properties or businesses likely to attract pests into the vicinity?

The importance of pest prevention through good hygiene, stock management and exclusion practices cannot be over-emphasised. As good sanitation practices are essential for any pest management program, keeping the bakery and its grounds clean and well-maintained is necessary to minimise the potential for pest invasion. In addition to measuring the pest prevention programme, all quality, safety and sanitation programs need to be well managed in order to ensure the necessary procedures are being undertaken properly and effectively.

It is only through the effective monitoring and measurement of the success of the hygiene and pest prevention activities that bakeries can be sure they are working as they should.

There can be no doubt that an effective pest management program should form a fundamental part of every baking facility. The risks of contamination are just too high for bakeries not to take the risks associated with pest invasions seriously.

Rentokil shares top tips to ensure your bakery remains pest free

  • The first line of defence against these pests is adequate proofing of your premises. Seal cracks and holes around utility pipes that enter the premises to prevent easy access – rats can come up from sewers through broken pipes. Even rats can get through holes of less than 1cm, so it is important to seal any holes. Seal entry points around windows and doors using sealant or caulking to plug the holes and fit bristle strip around doors. Install fly screens on windows and fly strips across doorways.
  • Pests come indoors in search of food and harbourage, so it is important not to attract them with easily accessible food sources, such as food waste or with nesting materials such as discarded packing materials or old newspapers.
  • Avoid still-standing water. Ensure that your drains are kept clear and running and ensure gutters and water gullies are not blocked. Control your fly problem by covering water butts with a lid and not leaving water around.
  • Keep garbage in sealed containers – make sure the lids fit tightly and are kept closed. Dispose of waste regularly and remember to wash out the bins. Any waste disposal containers should be kept in a designated area that is as far away from doors as possible.
  • Ensure you have regular pest prevention or control inspections by qualified pest technicians, who can also prevent the re-occurrence of pest infestations.