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Pests in food

Pests commonly found in food, also known technically as stored product insects, covers a large number of insects. They can infest a variety of stored products in particular foodstuffs such as grains, cereals, dried fruit, nuts, seeds and even tobacco.

Stored grain insects are a health hazard in both private homes and businesses like food processing plants, warehouses, bakeries, stores, restaurants, mills, farms and silos. They can also cause enormous economic losses through damage and contamination of food products.

Any contamination will make your food unfit for human consumption.

Identifying and removing the source of the infestation is a critical part of effectively controlling these pests.

Businesses like food processing or grain storage can greatly benefit from an ongoing professional pest management program to contain and eradicate infestations along with high standards of hygiene and sanitation, including stock rotation practices in accordance with any applicable regulations.

Call Rentokil on 1300 306 148 to talk to an expert about stored product insect control.

Rentokil’s services for stored product insects

In spite of their tiny size, these insects present a large threat to businesses and machinery. Potential harm includes the following:

  • Contamination of foodstuffs and goods - resulting in serious loss of valuable stock.
  • Damage to processing machinery due to the build up of food product (caking) in machinery caused by the stored product insects
  • Grain warming— insect activity in infested grain can produce heat and moisture, which can facilitate the growth of mould and can affect germination
  • Non–compliance with legislation - leading to damaged reputation, and income.

At Rentokil, we have an expert team devoted to our food clients. Our team is made up of High Dependency Technicians, Field Biologists, QA Managers and Technical Managers.

Our accumulated knowledge of maintaining the levels of protection required by our clients means that our skills, expertise and solutions are unmatched across Australia and the world. 

We can resolve pest insect problems fast and with the minimum of fuss using pesticide-free heat treatments and tailored fumigation solutions. 

Want to know if you have a problem? See how to identify the signs of pests in food.

Call us today on 1300 306 148 or contact us online to learn how our services could benefit your business.

Lighting the way in fly control


Stored product insect prevention methods

Denying access to these stored product pests entering your premises should be the first line of defence.

High standards of hygiene and sanitation need to be maintained at all times throughout the year particularly in the warmer months when the temperature can expedite the development of stored insect pests.

  • Temperature control - If possible maintain storage facilities at or below 16C and R/H at 30% or less.
  • Ensure high standards of hygiene, sanitation and housekeeping practices are maintained. - Clean up all excess food material such as spillages, and dust accumulation in premises, machinery, equipment, storage and transport vehicles
  • All stock / food material should be stored off the floor and away from walls to facilitate cleaning and inspections.
  • Keep raw materials in robust packaging - sufficiently robust and or airtight packaging can prevent infestation in all food facilities , such as food processing plants, warehouses, bakeries, storage areas and domestic premises.
  • Install tight fitting insect screens or screen doors - ensure that they are maintained in good condition.
  • Waste management - ensure that a policy of sealed bagging of all waste is in place; that waste skips are cleaned before delivery; and the skips are kept closed except when waste is being added. Cleaning of external drains, sumps and pits. Waste or spillage is a food source and these areas may be a harborage.

Vigilant inspections and monitoring

Stored insect pest infestations in premises can be confined to a small area such as a bag or pallet of raw material, however if left undetected infestations can disperse rapidly throughout the premises, therefore it is important that vigilant regular inspections and monitoring is an integral part of the management of stored insect pests.

  • Inspect incoming raw materials - Incoming stock should be inspected in an area away from the main storage area for any evidence of live pest activity. If found it should be immediately rejected and returned to the supplier.

  • Fit monitoring devices - Traps and lures must be widely used for monitoring and locating localised infestations inside premises. They also aid in providing information on the severity and type of species of an infestation as well as the effectiveness of treatments.

  • Use Stored Pest Insect Pheromone Pots - these pots and other glue trap lures must be installed in the premises. These also act as infestation monitors and when captured species reach specified count levels these will trigger specific treatment schedule procedures

  • Install light traps - in all internal areas of the premises to control and monitor flying insects. Commercial traps are available which utilise ultraviolet light to attract some but not all stored product pests. Data recorded can also help monitor stored product pests. Pheromone lures can be added to the trap.

  • In addition to our inspections we recommend that your staff also perform routine monitoring to ensure early detection of any pest problem.

Effective control using approved pesticides

If pest activity is found then control methods will involve either small isolated treatments or if the infestation is extensive and throughout the premises it may be necessary to treat the entire premises using space treatments.

Preventing product contamination is our number one priority. Some of the services we provide include:

  • Dusting - certain dusts can be used with pesticide properties. Some of these are mechanical in nature, which erode the cuticle of the insect causing desiccation.

  • Precision Spraying - Targeted spot crack and crevice treatments can be useful to arrest localised stored product pest occurrence in a structural environment. The success is dependent on adequate access and cleaning of loose or impacted residues. Only approved materials can be used with deference to preventing product contamination.

  • Auto-aerosol spraying devices - these devices dispense a measured dose of aerosol insecticide at timed intervals into the air. Only pyrethrum formulations should be used as these have low mammalian toxicity but are moderately effective against stored product pests. Experience shows location, reticulation design, distribution and maintenance are critical to achieve a useful effect.

  • Space sprayers - space treatment of a processing or storage environment with ultra low volume finely atomised droplets containing approved pesticides can be useful for containing and preventing cross infestation. Thermal or cold foggers (2-30 micron droplets) or in some cases misters (20-80 micron droplets) can be used to dispense aerosols of approved pesticide.

  • Exterior infestations - Where exterior infestations have been identified, it may be necessary to apply an approved insecticide treatment to insect activity sites outside buildings and storage facilities. Treatment of observed infestation with residual insecticide, can reduce stored product pests.

  • Fumigation - this the use of gaseous substances (fumigants) that are toxic to, and kill all life stages, of stored product pests in raw material or product. Fumigation must be done in gas proof enclosures to contain the gas for long enough to achieve mortality.

  • Controlled atmosphere - In some situations where a fumigant (gaseous substance) cannot be used infested raw material can be placed in large heat ovens, all stages of all insects are killed by heating the material to 60 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.

  • Grain protectants - prevention and control of stored product insects must be considered from harvest through to storage and processing. Grain protectants involves the application of insecticidal dusts and sprays directly to grain while in storage or transportation such shipping vessels or in silo’s on farms and mills. Because most grains are used for human consumption there are strict guidelines that control the use of grain protectants. This can provide long-term protection, the application is based on the natural decline of the grain protectant (pesticide) residues to low levels during the transportation or storage of the grain, so that later it can be processed into edible foods

  • Call Rentokil on 1300 306 148 or contact us online to see how our effective solutions can keep stored product insects out of your business.

Pests in food FAQs




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