food processing plant audit

Avoid the fail: 9 pest management items that can tank your audit score

Macy Ruiz

For food and beverage processors, third-party audits are a part of doing business today. Preparing for an audit, whether it be BRC, SQF, AIB, FSSC22000, or even a customer audit, can be a time-consuming process. It involves an all-hands on deck approach since auditors often look at conditions and processes that stretch across an operation. Pest control is a critical portion of many third-party audits, and the smallest infractions can result in low or failing scores, which can dramatically impact your business with customers.

Common audit problems

In my experience, there are a number of commonly overlooked items that can contribute to pest problems and lead to facilities being docked in their audits. Here are 9 problems that our pest control experts see regularly. Read on to find out what you can do to ensure that they don’t become an issue during your audit.

 

1. Failing to organize documentation

This is the number one cause of lost points in a third-party audit that I see. Depending on the audit scheme, the documentation required may differ slightly, but all auditors are looking to see documented pest control plans. This includes proof of service reports, facility maps with device locations, product labels and SDS sheets, trend reports, and more. 

PestNetOnline

Familiarize yourself with the documentation that your auditor will want to see. Ensure that it is all in one place or easily accessible ahead of the audit. You don’t want to be scrambling to find something while the auditor is waiting on it. Online pest management systems, such as Rentokil’s PestNetOnline, can offer a central hub for easy access to up-to-the-minute documentation.

 

2. Out-of-date facility maps

Although this is a piece of documentation, it’s so often missed that it deserves its own point. Today’s regulatory and audit requirements call for risk-based pest control programs. By its very nature, a risk-based program will be dynamic and should be continually adjusted to address new risks or concerns. 

If a new pest control device, such as a rodent station or insect light trap, is added to your program, or if a pest control device is moved, it MUST be updated on your facility map in your logbook or online pest management system. Failure to do so can lead to lost points on your audit. While your pest control provider should do this for you, it’s up to you to make sure that your map is current and accurate at all times.

 

3. Not logging pest sightings

Another documentation issue to watch for is being absolutely certain that any pest sightings get recorded in your logbook. During the course of an audit, an auditor may talk to or ask questions of your plant’s employees. If a pest sighting or problem is mentioned but isn’t recorded in the sighting log, that can lead to deductions. 

This is an easy issue to rectify: make sure that all of your employees know how and where to report any pest problems that they notice. It’s also important that employees feel comfortable reporting these problems. If they feel they will be penalized or that their jobs will be at risk, they often won’t.

 

4. Not acting on pest control recommendations

A responsible pest management provider will suggest corrective actions or make recommendations on ways to reduce the pest risk at your facility. This can be something simple, such as installing a door sweep to close a gap under a door, or something more significant, such as implementing a regular deep cleaning program to remove food debris or dust build-up. 

Failure to act on those recommendations – especially repeated ones – can catch an auditor’s eye and lead them to look more closely at conditions. To prevent this from happening, make sure you’re reviewing your proof of service reports after each service. Address all recommendations to show your facility’s efforts to implement pest control measures where needed.

 

forklift in a plant
Heavy machinery can damage pest control equipment accidentally, leading to potential audit deductions.

 

5. Damaged or non-functioning pest control devices

Food processing facilities are busy places that have a lot of action. It’s easy for a rodent bait station to be damaged by heavy machinery or vehicles, knocked out of place, become rusted from humidity or plant moisture, or for a non-functioning bulb in an insect light trap to get overlooked. However, just one damaged or non-functioning device could result in your score being dinged. 

With a few simple checks, this is an easy one to avoid. Be sure that your pest control provider is checking the integrity of all devices during their routine visits. If you notice an issue between visits, report it immediately to your provider so that they can come out and replace or repair the device. Schedule a pre-audit walk-through with your pest control provider to do a final check of any devices. 

Lumnia insect light trap

Finally, be sure that your provider updates you regularly on new products and tools they have available. With the advances being made continually, longer-lasting, more durable devices are being introduced all the time. For example, Rentokil’s Lumnia insect light traps now come with LED lamps that are designed to last up to three years.

 

6. Not cleaning up debris accumulation

Food and beverage processing plants produce a lot of products. Moisture is ever-present in some operations. Spills happen. Food dust is created. This organic debris can settle on top of machinery, in cracks and crevices, and just about anywhere. However, failure to clean up organic debris and food build-up can lead to substantial pest problems.  This is a frequently cited issue in audits. 

Be sure that regular deep cleaning is part of your plant’s operational procedures. Empower all employees to report potential issues so that they can be addressed.

 

7. Ignoring issues because they’re beyond or at the fence line

Fence lines may be “out of sight, out of mind” from everyday operations. However, fence line pest problems should be considered plant pest problems and addressed as part of your comprehensive pest management plan. Their close proximity to structures means that they are potential risks to the plant.

Many food processing plants are located adjacent to fields or farms, which come with their own unique pest issues that can easily migrate to plants. Understanding your neighboring properties business can help you and your pest management provider determine the protections that you may need to put in place at the fenceline. 

Rodent protection should always be in place along fence lines and the perimeter of the facility should be walked regularly to determine if new devices are needed or if there are rat burrows that should be addressed.

 

8. Failing to address exterior lighting issues

Bright exterior lighting can contribute to a number of flying insect issues, including moths and other night-flyers, which can create concerns for a plant. Lights angled at doors can attract flying insects right to the exact place they need to easily get inside. 

Speak with your pest management provider about the best type of lighting to reduce your facility’s attractiveness. This may be as simple as replacing the type of bulb you are using.

 

9. Not monitoring sewer or manhole access points

Large cockroach issues often happen in many plants because these pests can make their way into plants through sewer or manhole access points that are frequently overlooked. Often, in pointing these access points out to food plant employees, they don’t even realize they are there.

To avoid this problem, know where all these access points are and their proximity to production areas. Speak with your pest management provider about monitoring these areas for activity to catch potential problems before they develop.

 

Rentokil Steritech technician

Choose the right pest management partner

The best way to avoid these infractions is to have a pest management partner that understands your business and works with you to help you pass your audit with flying colors. 

Pest control is a necessary expense for most businesses. But too often it is considered a commodity, with companies awarding business to the lowest possible bidder. However, when it comes to audited and regulated facilities, ensuring that your selected vendor understands the third-party audit process, your facility, and its unique challenges is essential.

As your pest management provider the following questions? If they answer no to any of them, they may not be the best partner to work with your facility.  

  • Are you familiar with the specific requirements of our third-party audit schemes? (AIB, BRC, SQF, Primus, etc.)
  • Do you have any experience with the local auditors for my audit scheme? 
  • Do you provide service to other third-party audited facilities that produce similar products to ours?
  • Would you be willing to help us perform pre-audit preparations or be on-site during our audit to answer any questions that arise? 

With the right pest management partner and attention to these commonly overlooked items, acing your next audit is inevitable. 

 

Need an audit expert? Let us help.  

Rentokil has extensive expertise in working with third-party audited plants. In addition, both our North American and global organizations have partnered with global industry bodies to help our customers address emerging trends, meet new legislative requirements, solve complex pest challenges, and protect their brands. We are proud to have a strategic partnership with BRCGS and be active members of GFSI, powered by the Consumer Goods Forum.

Macy Ruiz
Macy Ruiz

Macy Ruiz is a Technical Services Manager and Board Certified Entomologist with Rentokil Steritech, working in the Southeast U.S. His career in the structural pest control industry spans nearly thirty years, and includes being named Commercial Technician of the Year by PCT Magazine in 2007. Macy earned his Bachelor of Science in Forest Entomology from the University of Guadalajara, Mexico, before spending a year at the University of California at Santa Cruz studying bark beetles, and then working for six years in agricultural entomology. In his spare time, he enjoys participating in and watching soccer, and playing guitar along with his children.

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