Never forget about sanitation

Mar 5, 2020, 10:11 AM by Fred Speer

If you ask a veteran pest management professional, QA manager, or third-party auditor what the likely root cause of most pest infestations is, we can guarantee that poor sanitation is going to be at the top of the list.

The simple fact is that if your facility does not have established and consistently reinforced sanitation and cleaning protocols, it will be at a higher risk for a pest infestation.

Sanitation is a core principle of an integrated pest management (IPM) program, and it’s important for employees, from the c-suite to hourly workers, to appreciate its importance. Many pest problems in commercial facilities can be reduced, or even prevented from occurring, if employees ensure that proper sanitation practices are followed.

The more cooperation that is received from maintenance staff – including internal or contracted cleaning services, supervisors, and front-line employees – the better the results of your pest management program will be.

Food processing, distribution, storage, and service facilities are aware of the value of having strong sanitation protocols in place to meet today’s more stringent regulatory and audit requirements.

Facilities that have their sanitation and cleaning programs in order are likely to run more efficiently, perform better financially, and are less likely to be threatened by pests.

The management of these facilities understand that sanitation and cleaning are the most important programs they oversee, and if protocols are not being followed correctly or performed consistently, the risk for pests rises.

In addition to quality loss through product adulteration and consumption by pests, poor sanitation and cleaning practices also increase the risk of a poor or failed audit or inspection, putting your products, employees, and customers at risk.

The downstream impact can also be detrimental to your business in several ways:

  • Damage to your brand(s) in the eyes of consumers
  • Financial losses from products being rejected by clients, product recalls, or the inability to sell your products to suppliers
  • The costs for additional or repeated sanitation services
  • The cost for additional (and unbudgeted) pest management services beyond the scope of your service agreement due to an unplanned infestation

What is effective cleaning?

An effective cleaning program is a formalized, documented process, not just pouring a chemical onto a surface, wiping it around, and declaring that the surface has been cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized. That won’t cut it.

For sanitation and cleaning protocols to be effective, they must be done consistently, but also done correctly. That is why a documented program is a must-have, because it can measure the effectiveness of your efforts and allow for corrections.

A comprehensive and effective cleaning typically will include the following three-step process.

  1. Washing: The function of the wash step is to ensure that the cleaning agent makes contact with the soil on the surface, to remove soil from the surface and keep it away from the surface.
  2. Rinsing: Thorough rinsing is essential to remove the cleaning agent. Rinsing may also continue the cleaning action.
  3. Drying: The drying step removes excess moisture (an attractant to many pests) and volatile residue.

What are some often-overlooked issues that contribute to sanitation issues?

  • Deep cleaning of equipment: In addition to floors, drains, and preparation surfaces, all equipment (e.g., sifters, conveyors, grinders, extruders, mixers) should be on a regular cleaning schedule, but that schedule also needs to include the deep cleaning of inaccessible areas. These areas often require machinery to be shut down, and are difficult to access, but doing so is essential to an effective sanitation and pest control program. A plant can have the cleanest floor around, but if food debris is left behind in a piece of processing equipment, pests will likely find it.
  • Equipment boneyards: These areas are often where non-functioning or outdated machinery is put. Unfortunately, equipment there is often not cleaned prior to moving, and can be a haven for pest populations. These areas also often provide harborage for rodents.
  • Air curtains, door seals, and screens: All access points to the food processing plant need be designed with pest prevention in mind. These would include air curtains on all exterior doors, screens on all windows, complete seals for dock-loading areas, etc. Also included should be a periodic inspection of these areas to ensure they are maintained in great condition.
  • The rock by the exterior doors: That rock used to prop exterior doors open for employee breaks can lead to a very common route of entry for all sorts of flying and crawling insects, which will wreak havoc on any sanitation or pest control program.
  • Inspection program for incoming shipments: Shipments should remain in some sort of quarantined area until they are inspected, and prior to entering the actual plant.
  • Think big picture: Having a master documented sanitation schedule is going to be critical to ensure that all areas of the plant are cleaned/sanitized on a regular basis.
  • Proper weed control: Without this, insects and rodents have a great area to infest, hide, and breed on the exterior of the facility. As populations increase, so will interior infestations.

Good sanitation also involves more than cleaning – it involves data. Make sure to partner with a pest control company that does more than just check devices. Ideally, the company will conduct regular inspections, quarterly evaluations, and annual risk assessments, and will use the data collected to heat-map potential problem areas. It will perform inspections of those areas to identify sanitation or exclusion issues that contribute to the problems noted, and will communicate that info back to their contact in the food plan, who  will then ensure that all issues are corrected.

Pests and sanitation issues are interchangeable. If you have one, you likely will have the other. Developing a strong partnership and cooperating with your pest management provider to identify vulnerable areas and conditions, take the necessary corrective action, and document the results are musts.

If you are looking for a pest management partner that delivers exceptional results and understands your business, and can help you protect your products, employees, and customers from harmful pests, call or text Clark Pest Control at (800) 936-3339.