When it comes to food safety, there isn’t room for error. Contaminated food and damaged products not only risk public health but also can damage brand and company reputation, cost money or even cause the facility to close. That’s why it’s important to create a food safety culture that protects your food products and helps get you ready for your next food safety audit.
While a variety of factors can affect food safety, insect pests and rodents can damage stored food and ingredients by contaminating it with filth and disease as they consume it, chew through packaging, or use stored foods as a breeding ground.
The first step to creating a food safety culture is to train staff in effective pest management techniques and establish their roles in an integrated pest management (IPM) plan. IPM takes a proactive approach to pest management by using non-chemical solutions and relying on chemical treatments only as a last resort.
Here are five topics to include in your next staff training:
1. Potential Pest Threats and High Risk Areas
Correct identification of pests and the risks associated with them is key to resolving and preventing pest problems. A pest management provider can train staff on your facility’s potential pest threats and high risk areas to keep an eye on. Many providers offer this service free of charge.
2. Pest Exclusion Techniques
Effective garbage management, housekeeping and storage practices go a long way in preventing pests. To keep pests from getting inside your facility in the first place, teach staff these simple tips:
- Inspect incoming shipments for signs of pest activity. Also inspect trucks before loading products for delivery;
- Clean up food debris and spills immediately;
- Seal cracks and crevices along door and window frames and around utility penetrations;
- Keep doors closed at all times, and install door sweeps and weather stripping along door frames.
3. Proper Food Storage
Implement the first-in-first-out principle of Good Manufacturing Practices, using older food first to help prevent deterioration that attract pests. Also, keep food products stored off the floor and at least 18 inches from the wall. Consider painting this 18-inch perimeter white to further enhance pest detection.
4. Thorough Documentation
In the event of a pest sighting, staff should follow a pre-established reporting protocol. The pest sighting report should include the type of pest (catch one if you can), how many were seen, when and where the pests were seen and what steps were taken to resolve the issue. Staff should also report building maintenance issues, such as cracks and crevices, missing door sweeps and leaky pipes so that these problems can be resolved.
5. Inspection Schedules
Your facility should be regularly monitored and inspected for pests, especially in high risk areas. Create a schedule for inspection and assign roles to employees that align with their existing responsibilities. For example, team members who take inventory can inspect product packaging for signs of pest damage and maintenance crews can check for holes and gaps around doors.
By training staff to identify signs of pest activity and practice pest management techniques, your facility will be one step ahead when it comes to food safety and passing your next audit. In addition to training staff, a pest management provider can provide educational materials that help you stay on top of current trends and keep staff on the same page.
Pest pressures can change over time, so create a plan for regular staff training and work with your pest management provider to develop a strategy that is customized to your facility. In the long run, this proactive approach will pay off as you and your staff are prepared to protect the facility from pest infestations – and from a poor audit score!
Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is Quality Assurance Manager – Regulatory/Lab Services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 10 years of experience, she manages the Quality Assurance Laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. For more information, email Alice Sinia at [email protected] or visit www.orkincanada.com.