Reduction of food, water and shelter is a critical component of food facility pest management programs. The more we can reduce the availability of these basic survival needs, the easier it is to control pests. However, there can be times that the type of cleaning strategies that are used to eliminate food can be detrimental to pest control efforts. This is most commonly found in food facilities when compressed air and power washing is performed. Although these techniques can be useful in moving food debris for clean up, they can also contribute to degradation of structural components and must be managed properly to ensure that food debris is not moved to inaccessible areas.
As service specialists, we can help our clients ensure that their sanitation efforts are effective in reducing food for pests. Educating our clients regarding the effects that improper clean-up can have on the program should be part of the service. Observe sanitation procedures to see if sanitation crews are performing services that will aid in pest control and pest prevention, without contributing to problems. Here are some tips for guiding clients in their clean-up efforts:
- In some facilities, such as dry processing food plants, compressed air is used for cleaning. It can be useful in moving dry products like flour and flour-based mixes to areas where the debris can be easily vacuumed. Although compressed air is fast and can be helpful in getting materials like flour out of cracks and crevices, it can also move the flour to even more inaccessible areas such as ceiling voids, overhead pipes and electrical boxes. In addition, if there are insects harboring in the product, the insects can be moved with the air blast to new harborages.
- We generally recommend that clients vacuum as a first step, especially if insect activity has been observed in an area. Then, use the compressed air to move the residual flour out of areas where the vacuum cannot reach. There are combination vacuum units available with dual capabilities of vacuuming and applying compressed air which can help with this task. As always, make sure that dry vacuum contents are promptly discarded, especially if insects have been vacuumed up.
In wet processing facilities, high pressure washing is often done to clean floors and other areas. High pressure washing is more energy efficient and a less labor-intensive method for cleaning but, like with compressed air, the force of the water has a tendency to push food debris into inaccessible areas. This includes areas underneath equipment and floor areas where the pitch of the floor does not allow for proper drainage. Traditional mopping helps reduce these issues but it is more time consuming. Raising equipment off the floor can help reduce the organic debris collection points underneath the equipment. Where such design changes are not possible, clients must place these hard-to-clean areas on a regular cleaning schedule to ensure that food deposits are not available for pest development. Placing equipment on wheels will facilitate cleaning by providing easier access for staff.
- High pressure cleaning can lead to more rapid deterioration of floor coatings and tile grout, increasing the attractiveness of floors to pests like the small flies, Drosophila repleta and Drosophila melanogaster. Tile grout can deteriorate over time, allowing for moist organic material to accumulate between and underneath floor tiles. Epoxy grouts are now available which are more resistant to high pressure hoses than other grouting materials and will last longer.
- Floor mats are an area where moisture and organic debris can accumulate. Mats should be picked up each night to allow for proper floor cleaning and drying.
- Areas sometimes neglected during the cleaning process are the ramps that are installed to move carts in and out of proofers, freezers and coolers. This can be another point where organic debris can be pushed during power washing of floors. Ramps either need to be tightly sealed or removed on a regular basis for proper cleaning.
Monitoring for proper sanitary techniques can be essential in preventing and solving pest problems. Use your observations in educating your client and building the client-pest management professional partnership to ensure that sanitation really is pest control.
Pat Hottel, a member of the Copesan Technical Committee, has almost 40 years of experience in the pest management industry. She’s been with McCloud Services in South Elgin, Ill., since 1980 and serves as technical director. Hottel holds a bachelor’s degree in entomology, a master’s degree in educational technology, and is a BCE.
Copesan is an alliance of pest management companies with locations throughout North America. To learn more, visit www.copesan.com.