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How Eco-Friendly Food Packaging Can Affect Your Pest Management

The push toward sustainability is not a fad. As consumer awareness of their environmental footprint increases, so does their desire for visibility into the commercial supply chain. Customers want to see what the companies they support are doing to reduce their impact on the environment. In this setting, it is no longer just a perk to see sustainable actions from a company—but almost a requirement in order to maintain a consumer base. One Horizon Media study shows that 81 percent of millennials expect companies to publicly commit to good corporate citizenship. And, according to the Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report, 66 percent of consumers will pay more to shop with brands who are committed to environmentally friendly practices.

For the food processing industry, sustainable food packaging is an area for improvement. In fact, the recent popular demand for companies to reduce or completely quit the use of single use plastic in packaging has pushed many industries to move toward sustainable materials. For food manufacturers, this means opting to use eco-friendly packaging options such as biodegradable plastic, cardboard egg shells and other recycling-friendly products. Some are even considering edible packaging. While these options are fantastic at face-value, they can present some new challenges for processors.

Eco-friendly packaging’s unexpected downside? Increased pest activity. Most bio-degradable products are softer and flimsier in nature compared to traditional plastic, which means they’re easier for pests to chew through—particularly stored product pests. And with edible packaging, well, this becomes a true pest attractant in itself.

For stored products, pest concerns can be broken into three types:

  1. External or Secondary Feeders
    These pests feed off the exterior of grain and kernel products, in flour or damaged whole grains, working their way inside packaging. These can include Indian meal moths, red and confused flour beetles and cigarette beetles.
  2. Internal Feeders
    These pests are known for laying eggs in stored grains. These can include Angoumois grain moths, granary weevils and lesser grain borers.
  3. Scavengers
    These pests typically feed off debris in crevices and consume moldy or damp food products. These can include foreign grain beetles, flat and fungus beetles.

While food processors—and other suppliers around the globe—work toward reducing their environmental impact, it’s important to keep in mind the potential pest pitfalls that come with it. If you’re considering alternative materials to package food products, consult with your Pest Management Provider (PMP) to determine what preventive measures need to be taken to ensure your pest activity doesn’t go up while your carbon footprint goes down.

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