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Top 5 pests in the pharmaceutical sector

Pests can cause large economic losses in the pharmaceutical industry through contamination of raw materials, storerooms, laboratories, production areas, packaging and finished products.

Regulations require cleaning operations to include laboratory tests to validate sanitation and hygiene and absence of residue from previous production ingredients and cleaning products. The expected standards in maintaining the quality and efficacy of products are extremely high, and the consequences of a pest infestation can be severe:

  • damage to reputation and brand;
  • financial cost of contaminated raw materials, finished products, and production downtime;
  • loss of trust;
  • loss of orders, customers and revenue;
  • claims for compensation;
  • legal action by regulatory or public health authorities.

Decades of experience with thousands of customers in the pharmaceutical sector across the globe has given us unique expertise and insights into the most common pests disrupting pharmaceutical manufacturing businesses worldwide – along with the most effective pest control solutions to monitor, control and prevent them.

1. Flies

A number of fly species can be present around manufacturing facilities, depending on the environment, the materials used in the plant that could attract insects, and the potential breeding conditions around the plant.

Common hazards caused by flies

Flies have been found to carry over 100 different pathogens. They feed on faecal matter, garbage, rotting materials, as well as stored food products. They move between contaminated food sources and clean areas, carrying filth on their bodies as well as pathogenic microorganisms, increasing the risk to contamination of machinery, utensils and ingredients alike.

  • Different fly species are attracted to different food products, including fermenting sugars, oils and fats, carbohydrates, and decaying proteins and vegetable matter.
  • Fruit flies are attracted to fermenting sugary liquids, in which they can feed and breed in very small amounts, such as in garbage containers, drains and old drinks bottles.
  • Drain flies are attracted to rotting food, sewage and other organic waste material. They lay eggs in organic waste that can build up in drains or polluted shallow water. They can breed in the gelatinous bio-films that form on surfaces in drains and septic tanks, and are resistant to cleaning and pest-control chemicals.

Commercial fly control for pharmaceutical manufacturing companies

Flies can be controlled through 3 ways:

1. The appropriate design and maintenance of a facility

Making sure the design of your pharmaceutical facilities such as using fly screens on windows and vents and using the appropriate external door design can go a long way in preventing flies in your business. Additionally, simple procedures such as keeping windows and doors such when not in use as well as maintaining your building can help prevent flies from entering in the first place.

2. Following best practice for hygiene compliance

Implementing good hygiene standards, disposing of garbage regularly and keeping drains free from accumulating organic matter will help to eliminate both breeding and food sources for flies, making your facility less appealing to flies.

3. Commercial fly control traps

UV light traps and pheromone traps can be used to eliminate flies and prevent breeding populations. Developed with innovative patented LED technology, our range of commercial insect light traps are designed to attract, kill and encapsulate insects hygienically, eliminating the risk of contamination.

2. Cockroaches

Cockroaches are the most common type of crawling insect that infests pharmaceutical facilities and can cause particular problems because of their size, given their ability to hide in small places, their varied diet, rapid reproduction and the diseases they can carry.

Cockroaches are primarily nocturnal, sheltering in the daytime and coming out at night to find food and other sites for shelter. They hide in dark places such as cracks, crevices, drains, sewers, inside equipment, machinery and hidden spaces that provide the right temperature and humidity. These places are also hard to reach using normal cleaning and sanitation methods.

Risks from cockroaches

  • Diseases and allergens: cockroaches can carry a large number of disease-causing microorganisms, including StaphylococcusSalmonellaListeria, E. coli;
  • Filthy feeding habits: cockroaches feed on decaying matter, mould, faecal matter in sewers, from rodents and birds, and animal carcasses, which can then be transmitted into the production area on their bodies or from excreta;
  • Excretions: they defecate along their pathways and frequently expel saliva on surfaces to ‘taste’ their environment;
  • Stains and smells: droppings and bodily secretions stain and leave a foul odour that can permeate infested areas, products and packaging;
  • Body parts: cast skins and egg cases contaminate products and packaging;
  • allergens: droppings and shed skins contain allergens, which can trigger asthma attacks when there are heavy populations;

Cockroach prevention in the pharmaceutical sector

Good sanitation practices will help prevent infestations and pick up the presence of cockroaches:

  • Storing products in cockroach-proof containers – avoiding the use of cardboard as cockroaches feed on cardboard;
  • Maintaining drains in good condition to prevent accumulation of food debris and means of access and shelter;
  • Removal of waste from production areas, garbage container design that denies access to all pests, positioning of garbage containers away from storage and processing areas, emptying and cleaning frequently, all reduce risk of infestation;
  • Good building design can reduce the risk of access e.g. through spaces around pipe and cable ways, vents, screens, windows, doorways, sewers; and harbourage in small spaces such as junction boxes;
  • A good inspection regime for equipment, buildings and shipments to identify risks and infestations quickly

A number of commercial cockroach treatments are available, including sprays, aerosols, dusts and bait. The insecticides used must be permitted for use in a pharmaceutical facility and will require competent, trained personnel to apply them. Rentokil can survey facilities and advise on the suitable, safe and permitted means of control, including chemical-free control methods suitable for sensitive business environments and insect monitor units to detect signs of activity.

3. Rodents

Rats and mice pose a serious risk to pharmaceutical facilities from both the damage they can cause to buildings, fittings, equipment and products, and the risk of contamination from a range of pathogens in a highly sensitive production environment.

Common hazards caused by rodents

The hazards to facilities from rats and mice include damage to buildings and fixtures, especially electrical wiring and machinery. They can also cause contamination through their urine and droppings as well as filth picked up from the environment. They can often be found gnawing on product containers and packaging as well as the products themselves. Lastly, they are also known to transmit a large number of diseases, including SalmonellosisLeptospirosisWeil’s disease and Toxoplasmosis.

How to get rid of rodents in pharmaceutical manufacturing sites

The control of rodents involves the elimination of harbourage in and around buildings and preventing access to food, water and shelter. There may be many points of entry to a building, such as cracks, vents, pipes, cabling, drains, doorways, windows and screens, where measures can be taken to prevent access.

Any rodents present must be controlled using traps or poison according to acceptable practices and legislation related to pharmaceutical production. Rodenticides used in pharmaceutical facilities must be approved products, placed in secure bait stations and away from production areas. If stored on site they must also be stored in suitable conditions that prevent contamination from the poison in products and the environment.

Expertise is needed to determine the type of bait used, where it should be placed and the frequency, the monitoring regime and the documentation, which is best done using an outside contractor. If done in-house, staff will need to be certified to handle the chemicals and carry out the rodent control activities. Rentokil offers a range of industry-leading rodent-control systems suitable for use in pharmaceutical facilities. We select the most appropriate combination of devices for each customer’s circumstances to monitor, alert and eliminate rodents.

4. Birds

The buildings of a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility provide safe refuge for bird pest to roost. The most common bird pests are pigeons, house sparrows, seagulls and starlings.

Problems caused by bird infestations

Birds can cause physical damage by dislodging roofing material, particularly the larger birds, and blocking guttering with nests and feathers. Their droppings foul buildings, vehicles, paved areas and building entrances. Inside buildings, bird droppings, nesting material and feathers can contaminate surfaces, equipment and products.

Birds are known to transmit over 60 human pathogens, including SalmonellaE. coliCampylobacterCryptosporidium and avian flu. Bird nesting and roosting sites also encourage infestations of bird mites, fleas and some beetle species.

Bird control for pharmaceutical businesses

Bird control consists of preventing access to food, water and shelter. These include keeping doors shut, removing spillages and regularly checking for potential bird access points.

Denying shelter includes eliminating nesting and feeding sites on buildings and in the vicinity of the facility. This should start with the building design and include measures to prevent access to flat roofs, balconies, ledges, chimney stacks, guttering and culverts, which are favourite areas for nesting.

Rentokil provides a range of bird repellent systems including netting, electric bird deterrents, entry barriers and offers an Integrated Bird Management program that safely and humanely controls bird pests through a comprehensive solution of trapping, removal, and targeted exclusion techniques.

5. Stored product pest

Stored product insects (SPIs) include beetles, weevils, moths and mites (arachnids) that can infest edible pharmaceutical ingredients such as starches, sugars or natural herbal products used to extract medically active compounds.

Common issues caused by SPIs

SPIs introduce undesirable microorganisms into sterile ingredients, making them unfit for use. The pest activity in ingredients can also change their physical and chemical properties which can halt production lines and damage machinery. Stored product insects can also enter packaging made of paper, cardboard, plastic, cellophane and foil. The entrance holes of some insect are smaller than can be seen by the human eye.

Pest prevention for stored product pests in pharmaceutical manufacturing

Rentokil offers a range of systems for the monitoring and control of stored product pests, including glue traps with species-specific pheromone bait, pheromone traps, heat treatment and fumigation.

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