Stored product pest prevention during COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, food processing facilities remain open for operation while many other non-essential businesses are required to close their doors. Since customers want to buy food from a source they know is safe, many companies that either grow, process or sell food have greatly increased their sanitation efforts. Unfortunately, no matter how spotless a food processing facility may appear, the risk of a stored product pest infestation is still a real possibility.

Stored product pests (SPPs) continue to remain among the top 3 pests for food processing facilities from a cost and brand reputation standpoint. The Indian meal moth, Cigarette beetle, Drugstore beetle and Warehouse beetle are just a few of the most common types of these destructive pests. Any of them could sneak into your facility’s products and cost your business thousands of dollars.

How do stored product pests damage food products?

Though eating these insects may not be harmful, SPPs can damage, consume or contaminate food, fibers and animal skins. Seeds, grains, nuts, and dried starchy products are just a few of the most desirable food products among these pests. To give you a glimpse into just how harmful these insects can be — every year, SPP’s destroy about 10 to 12% of the grains harvested around the world.

They typically only consume a small amount of any stored food — if discovered early — but it is often the accumulated damage that is the biggest problem. If left undetected, SPPs can: make holes in food products, contaminate products with feces, dead skin, and webbing, and even change the physical properties of ingredients. Any of this can disrupt food processing equipment and spoil large batches of product.

stored product pests

How to prevent stored product pests

The goal for any food business is the total elimination of all insects. To do so, it is critical to focus on prevention, early detection and elimination of infestations using integrated pest management practices. Food processing facilities are often large, complicated buildings with many opportunities for insects and other pests to enter. If facilities actively follow pest prevention measures, the likelihood of an infestation will be reduced.

Tips for stored product pest prevention include:

  • Examine all materials entering your facility, including raw materials and packaging that could contain insects.
  • Store food product pallets at least 6 inches off the floor. Pallets should also be at least 18 -24 inches from the wall and there should be 6-12 inches between bay rows.
  • Reduce the amount of vegetation surrounding the building as much as possible, which can harbor and provide food for insects.
  • Keep windows and doors shut.
  • Store waste far from building entrances and in containers with tight, secure coverings.
  • Rotate stock following First In, First Out product rotation practices. This ensures that product does not sit on shelves for long periods of time.
  • Place lighting as far as possible from entrances, to avoid attracting pests indoors.
  • Use lighting with low UV content — the main wavelengths that attract them.

food processing facility

High-risk focus areas

Openings: Buildings should have minimal openings such as windows, doors and vents. Any existing windows, doors, and vents should have fine mesh screens to block flying insects from entering.

External doors: Doors should not open directly into food processing areas, denying insects a direct entryway into this region.

Cables and pipes: Ensure that any cable or pipe is thoroughly sealed at building entry points, as they allow for possible access routes for insects. Poor maintenance can allow more crawling and flying entrance routes to develop.

Roof drainage: Roofs should have sufficient drainage, allowing for no water accumulation. Any holes that could act as potential access points into the building for pests should be repaired.

Debris on roofs: Keep roofs free of debris, which can provide shelter and food for insects, and bird nests. Nests can support colonies of SPPs and block drainage systems.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems: Such systems can leak moisture, which provides a breeding site for pests if allowed to accumulate. These systems can also provide flying and crawling access points into the building if not designed or maintained properly.

Food loading and unloading areas: Clean these areas consistently, keeping them free of food and other debris.

Electrical machinery: This equipment has openings in which debris builds up and small insects hide and breed. Additionally, it also provides warmth that can improve those breeding conditions.

Rentokil technician with customer in a warehouse

Rentokil’s stored product pest solutions

Activities all along the food supply chain provide these SPPs with a harvest of food supplies and ideal breeding sites. Stored product pests’ size ranges from less than 1mm for mites and other insect eggs and larvae to just under 1cm long for adult beetles and weevils. Consequently, they can go undetected until a full-on infestation has occurred, severely damaging your facility’s food products.

Rentokil can help design a comprehensive pest management strategy that addresses your facility’s unique needs and risks. Starting with a thorough inspection, your service specialist will physically remove any uncovered infestations. Residual products and insect growth regulators will then be applied, providing lasting protection for your facility. Finally, they will install pheromone monitors to highlight any potential new pest activity.

In the current crisis, there are many health and safety risks that could cause your facility to close its doors. Don’t let stored product pests be one of them. To speak with one of our experts, call us today at 1-888-261-2413 or use our online contact form to set up an appointment.

Danielle Morales

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