For food processing companies, proper sanitation is essential to ensuring food safety. Lack of proper sanitation can attract pests, leading to additional food safety issues. With supply shipments coming in regularly, many of which are being stored for a long period, insufficient sanitation can amplify the ideal conditions for pests. And once pests work their way into your facility, they can be difficult to eliminate. Stored product pests can destroy and contaminate food products while other pests, such as cockroaches and rodents, will likely be attracted to any excess food present. Knowing how to effectively clean your facility can help eliminate conditions for pests to live and breed.
Sanitation is a prevention strategy to help safeguard your site against pest infestations and subsequent threats. While a key aspect of food plant sanitation is design, regular maintenance can mean the difference between passing and failing an audit. And sanitation is more than just sanitizing process equipment. Developing and implementing a comprehensive and consistent sanitation regimen as a part of your Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan can help prevent pest activity, product contamination, and profit loss.
Following these ten tips will help revamp your food plant sanitation maintenance:
- Maintain the exterior. Keep any surrounding vegetation trimmed low and away from the building (preferably more than three feet away) to help deter pests from entering your facility. While large trees and bushes are attractive, they create a welcoming space for pests to access food and take up residence, leading them closer to your facility.
- Clean dumpsters. When taking out trash, ensure that the area around the dumpsters are clean and keep lids tightly closed to help prevent pests from sheltering inside. Avoid overflow problems by assessing your pick-up schedule to ensure it is sufficient for the amount of waste your facility produces. If there are bins going to animal feed, ensure those are picked up regularly and are not overflowing. Also, regularly cleaning and sanitizing dumpsters may help keep pests away.
- Inspect your roof. It’s easy to overlook the roof when it comes to sanitation, but it should be checked regularly for pest attractants such as standing water, debris, and growth, which can attract birds. And it’s also a good idea to make sure your HVAC unit is draining correctly and that your screens and filters are in decent condition.
- Clean, sanitize, and disinfect equipment: Check all equipment from a sanitation and a pest perspective. In addition to making sure there are no leaks, all seals are tight, and there is no evidence of pests, consider investing in a disinfectant service such as misting treatments. These can address the hard-to-reach areas while disinfecting your food processing equipment.
- Check for water. Standing water, whether from a leak or a clogged drain, builds organic matter that attracts pests, offering an additional food source for product-contaminating pests. Notice if water isn’t making it to the drain and speak with your provider about cost-effective ways to mitigate the problem.
- Pay attention to cracks, corners, and hard-to-reach places. You know where they are — the elevator pits, areas around bin hoppers, transfer points, behind refrigeration units, tunnels, even the head house. These areas are not addressed as often due to their limited visibility, so be sure to incorporate checking and cleaning tight spaces as part of your facility’s sanitation procedures.
- Don’t forget the break rooms. Ask employees to store their food in sealed containers or even provide refrigerators for food storage. Remove any food debris in and around microwaves, refrigerators, and vending machines. And remember to wipe up any residue from coffee machines, water coolers, and other appliances.
- Monitor for pests. Ideally, you find sanitation issues before pests become a problem. However, despite vigilant efforts, sometimes pests make an appearance. Make sure you are leveraging both technology and your employees in your pest monitoring efforts in order to catch a potential problem early:
- Employees: Create or update a reporting system for when an employee spots a pest or potential issue. Make sure there is a documentation process so when a pest provider visits, they can review reports and make recommendations accordingly.
- Devices: Consider leveraging digital trap devices that can alert you when they have a pest inside them. Using this data from pest devices can provide warnings of potential issues. And, since pests often come to food sources, you can use pest information to point out existing sanitation issues, making monitors a useful verification tool.
- Work with your provider. A strong partnership with your pest control provider can increase your facility’s IPM efforts, which can help ensure your facility aligns with sanitary design standards. Work with your provider to identify potential hot spots and conduct comprehensive inspections. Consider asking your provider to help train employees to make the most of your prevention efforts.
- Keep updated records. Ask your pest providers for detailed reporting so you can follow your site’s pest management status at a glance whenever needed. Having this information on hand can be especially helpful for your company in the event of an audit.
Just as you would revise your food safety plan and IPM plan on a regular basis, food processing companies should consistently review and update their sanitation program for all areas of operations. Sanitation issues lead to pest problems, so keeping things clean requires a partnership with everyone at the site. Ensure cooperation from the staff by working with your pest control provider to offer training on best practices and techniques. Your pest control provider will be able to advise on the best course of action for addressing sanitation issues and treating any pest problems.
With the help of a strong partnership with your pest control provider, following these sanitation practices on an ongoing basis can help fortify your facility’s sanitation regimen, as well as reduce and even prevent pests. Learn more about how Waltham Pest Services can help keep your food processing facility clean and pest-free.