It can be easy to take rodent control for granted. For food processing facilities, however, that’s an unwise choice. Rodent contamination in your food product can ruin your reputation and lead to being shut down by the authorities, as happened to this Wisconsin food production facility:
Who’s to blame in this situation? It’s hard to say without being there. In many cases, some responsibility will lay with the pest control operator and with the food plant itself.
Here’s the top questions that I would ask in this situation. By the way, pest professionals, these are the questions you should be asking about every food plant you service. QA / QC managers at food plants, you should be asking your pest professional these questions, and expecting quality answers.
- What amount of rodent activity is there on the outside of the structure? You can determine this by looking at the amount of feeding on the exterior bait stations, as well as looking at the conditions that will allow mice to breed, such as weedy lots, farm fields, etc. Are there burrows that need to be baited (in the case of Norway rats). More rodent activity = more bait stations needed. But remember, bait stations are only part of an overall solution.
- Has the building been rodent proofed recently? Rodent proofing is not a do-once and forget project. Part of the regular maintenance any building needs is a regular inspection, at least once a year, if not once a quarter, for openings that rodents can use to enter. For mice, that’s only 1/4 inch.
- Is product being inspected for rodents as it comes off of the truck and into the facility? This is one of the number one ways that rodents gain access to a building. If a food plant’s dock crew doesn’t know how to do this inspection, then their pest control provider should teach them.
- Are proper storage practices being followed? At minimum, there must be a 12-18 inch inspection line along all exterior walls and product must be stored up off the floor. This allows a good inspection and helps to deter mouse infestations, should mice get inside.
- Is there enough rodent control equipment inside? Each set of standards (AIB, Silliker, etc.) have their own requirements for how much rodent equipment is enough. No one is necessarily better than another, so I recommend picking the one you are most likely to have an inspection under and following it.
- Does the pest control company identify problems that could lead to pests, like storage issues, or areas where exclusion is needed?
- When the pest control company identifies problems, how do you make sure they are actually taken care of properly by maintenance?
This list is just a start. A complete site inspection and interview with the food plant personnel will reveal additional questions to ask and concerns. A situation like this requires detective work.
Now, you might be thinking that this service can get expensive. True, it can. But, what is the cost of having US Marshals come in and seize your product, of having a report in the local paper about your rodent infestation? Spending a little extra to get the right rodent control service is well worth the cost.