Improving the Effectiveness of Your IPM Programs

February 15, 2019

As pest management professionals (PMPs), we are asked to assess food handling establishments to help improve their integrated pest management (IPM) programs.

IPM programs are not just about reducing pesticide usage or using low-impact methods to manage pests, they encompass much more. They include paying attention to sanitation, exclusion, cultural and inspection practices that, if ignored, can create conditions conducive to attracting pests.

IPM programs also include a heavy dose of preventive actions to deter pests. Under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), prevention is the preferred method of pest management. If rodents or cockroaches can’t gain access to a facility, there is less of a chance there will be an issue.

Today’s IPM programs also rely on data analysis to identify key trends that provide vital information on pest activity and threat levels. This data is useful when creating a plan of action to eliminate the pest threat.

When Clark Pest Control technicians and QA specialists inspect a facility for pest activity, they will ask some very important questions to help them get to the root of the pest problem. They’ll ask questions to find out why there might be a higher risk of possible pest activity in a particular facility or in a particular area of that facility.

Five Questions to Improve IPM Program Effectiveness

  1. What are the target pests? We identify all possible pests that might be present. It’s usually rodents and cockroaches, but what about stored product pests, small flies, occasional invaders or birds? Can they also be an issue for this facility?
  2. What are the health risks for each target pest? This is critical since some pests (i.e. rodents, cockroaches, flies, etc.) pose a higher risk to the public than other pests. For example, spiders are less likely to carry pathogens than cockroaches or rodents, but what if your facility is prone to having black widow spiders? What about fruit flies? Most people think fruit flies are a harmless insect but studies show that fruit flies spread harmful pathogens to food preparation and serving areas.
  3. When are pests an issue? Determining the threat level brought on by pests is important to deciding what action needs to be taken. Questions that will be asked include:
    1. What does the trending data tell us?
    2. What do the service technician’s notes say about activity levels?
    3. Is the trend analysis telling us when activity is higher during different times of the year?
    4. Is the rodent activity historically worse in the fall and winter months?
    5. Does the plan prepare for such a spike in activity levels?
  4. Where are the pests coming from? All pest activity comes from somewhere. Most activity is brought into a facility via incoming shipments and from employees. The source of most cockroach infestations is from these two “Trojan Horses.” Rodents gain access in incoming shipments of commodities or from a lack of rodent exclusion practices. A mouse only needs a 1/4” hole, gap or void to gain access to a building. When’s the last time exterior doors were checked for seals or door sweeps? Are exterior doors being propped open by employees?
  5. Why are the pests able to thrive? Answering this question is vital to identifying the root of any pest problem. If small flies (i.e. fruit flies, drain flies, etc.) are in a facility, the question is, why are they there? Pests need food, water, and shelter to thrive. When was the last time the drain lines were inspected and cleaned? It’s amazing how a scheduled sanitation program will prevent pest activity.

According to noted industry consultant Dr. Bobby Corrigan, “sanitation is pest control.” When pest-conducive conditions are removed from the scenario, it can go a long way to solving the problem.

For example, no amount of fogging and spraying will solve a small fly problem if the source of the activity is in the drain lines. Clients will end up wasting time and money, and unneeded pesticide treatments will be made. Even in a commercial kitchen where grease is an issue, if standing water was removed and cracks and crevices sealed up, ongoing cockroach infestations can be eliminated.

Through years of experience protecting commercial food processing, storage and service facilities, Clark has learned that pest activity is often a symptom of another problem and the key to finding the root cause and solving the problem is to ask the right questions.

Before any treatment recommendations are made, we first perform a comprehensive risk assessment. An effective IPM program also involves the facility’s staff helping to resolve conducive conditions such as sanitation, structural repairs and maintenance, equipment cleaning, employee training, etc. Otherwise, a facility will continue to put itself at a higher risk of a pest infestation and contaminated products.

Higher risk IPM programs may require a weekly service but when facility staff and pest management professionals work together, IPM programs become more proactive, less reactive, and less costly over the long term, and lead to higher levels of audit compliance and pest-free food products.

If you are looking for a pest management partner that understands your commercial facility  and can design and deliver effective pest management and food safety programs, give Clark Pest Control a call at (800) 936-3339.

##