The Case for Maintaining A Complete Rodent Management Tool Box

Apr 5, 2018, 08:43 AM by Fred Speer
If you don’t have all pieces to a puzzle, the total picture will never come together.

This analogy describes the proposed legislation currently in front of the California General Assembly that could potentially limit the tool box the pest management industry’s deploys to effectively and safely protect the food supply consumers around the world enjoy from rodents.

The crux of the proposed legislation - California AB 2422 (introduced on March 23, 2018) - seeks to require qualified applicators to submit an application to receive an exemption to apply anti-coagulant rodenticides only after exhausting all other control alternatives.

And while the legislation incudes an exemption for “agricultural activities,” if passed, it would established a dangerous precedent that could put the food industry and consumers at risk.

“Rodents must be controlled to maintain a safe food supply and protect consumers, and pest management professionals are charged with doing that job.,” says Dr. Niamh Quinn, interactions advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension Service.  “In order to do that they must have access to a large tool box which includes rodenticides.”

Quinn says the vagueness of enforcement, permit process and specifics regarding the “agriculture” exemption add to the confusion with the revised legislation that is now in its third iteration.

“While it is not seeking an all-out ban on rodenticides, it would make the job of pest management professionals more difficult and slow the timing down on taking action to resolve a rodent problem,” says Quinn.

Quinn goes on to say that timing is everything when it comes to designing and deploying an effective response to a rodent infestation.

“Rodents reproduce quickly and in large numbers, and if pest professionals were to have to wait for a permit process to play out if could have devastating results,” says Quinn. “Imagine if a restaurant, school cafeteria or food processing facility had to wait two or three weeks for a permit to be granted.”

To control rodents – a notoriously difficult pest to manage – pest professionals need an extended – not a limited – tool box at their disposal.

“A holistic IPM approach to rodent management is a must but not having a quick acting tool such as rodenticides to knock down a severe rodent population could be dangerous to public health,” says Quinn. “You cannot manage rodents with just trapping and exclusion.”

How are pest management professionals demonstrating the need to maintain a versatile rodent management toolbox?

It starts with continuing the rodent management best practices, founded in integrated pest management (IPM) principles, it currently deploys.

“Rodent management best practices include a variety of elements but it starts with exclusion and sanitation, and everyone in the facility, from upper management to the late shift workers, needs to have a strong proactive mindset,” says Lance Van Zant, A.C.E., quality assurance supervisor for Clark Pest Control. “This can include the targeted use of rodenticides to eliminate and prevent disease-transmitting rodents from threatening food products.”

Other IPM driven rodent management best practices include:

  • Cultural, structural and sanitation practices
  • Proper bait station location
  • Collecting data from traps and stations
  • Creating spatial mapping trend reports and analysis
  • Performing a root-cause analysis to identify the true reason/condition why the rodent occurrence happened and come up with a preventive corrective action

Van Zant says Clark Pest Control has successfully deployed multi-catch devices and snap traps near doors and other vulnerable areas in commercial facilities to control rodents and reduce the use of bait stations.

“When we install these devices to replace and reduce bait usage, we have reduced the interior capture rate down to zero in most cases,” adds Van Zant.

The Importance of Complete Rodent Management

Why is it important for pest management professionals (and their food industry clients) to have access to the latest pest management tools to control potentially harmful pests, like rodents? Consider the following outcomes that could become very “real,” very quickly for a food industry facility should rodents gain access and contaminate products.

  • Disease Transmission – Rodents transfer harmful pathogens (i.e. salmonella, E. coli, listeria, etc.) to food products (processed and unprocessed) endangering food and consumers.
  • Damage to Property – Rodents, especially California’s populous roof rats, gnaw and chew on items, including electrical wiring that can lead to fires and damage the structural integrity of a facility.
  • Contamination of Food Preparation Surfaces – Not only do rodents threaten food products but the surfaces where food is prepared, processed, stored and transported.
  • Adverse Consumer Opinion and Brand Damage – News of a contaminated product can spread fast today on social media and severely and negatively impact your company’s brand in the eyes of consumers.
  • A Blow to the Bottom Line – Contaminated products translate into lost sales revenue and additional unbudgeted expenses to correct the root cause of the problem.
  • Failed Audits – A single rodent could cause your facility to fail an audit and lead to expensive corrective actions or the inability to sell your product.
  • Recalls and Regulatory Action – If a food product is suspected of being contaminated the FDA, under its expanded recall authority, can order a costly recall or take additional, more severe regulatory action including criminal prosecution.