Spotlight on Food Safety, Sponsored by Bayer, The High Cost of Trap Checking

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July 15, 2020

Monitoring rodent traps at large commercial facilities comes at a cost, especially if your client doesn’t have a rodent problem.

Say you charge a client $375 a week for various pest control services and you spend 80 percent of your time onsite checking empty traps. The cost of killing one mouse a year? A whopping $15,600, said John Moore, corporate IPM director, Fumigation Service & Supply.

Technician wear-and-tear is another cost. Checking 100 empty traps a week in a facility means you’ve unnecessarily bent over 5,200 times, pointed out veteran PMP Dan Collins. “What food company would do 5,200 tasks with zero results?” he asked.

Remote rodent monitoring reduces pointless trap checking. It also reduces risk of injury since devices can be placed in hard-to-reach areas like drop ceilings (conventional traps require regular ladder or lift use) and under hinged sub-floors, which can pinch fingers. The technology may even help attract new hires, as it emphasizes the industry’s professionalism and growing focus on tech-savvy solutions.

Elevate Collaboration. No longer can technicians tell clients, “Everything’s fine,” said Chris Del Rossi, founder of Food and Drug and the Bug. “Everything’s not fine; there are lots of things to find and communicate to the customer, like conditions they need to correct,” he explained. As such, pest management companies must communicate better with clients. Larger companies may need to create account manager positions to help build these relationships.

Key client stakeholders might work at the plant and elsewhere. “You’ve got to get to know them,” said Joe Barile, technical service lead at Bayer. Besides understanding their food safety concerns, educate them about pest prevention and how you can relieve some of these anxieties by being an important contributor to their food safety program.

Food clients may not understand what preventive service is, or that it’s even an option. “They really rely on the pest control operator to be the expert,” said Gina Kramer, executive director of Savour Food Safety International, which provides auditing, consulting and training to food and beverage manufacturers.

It is the pest control industry’s responsibility, she said, “to educate those in the food and beverage industry as to what other services or alternatives are available” so they can truly implement an IPM system.

Moore agreed. “Being an engaged partner in food safety and brand protection is what the quality and safety people in the food industry are screaming for,” he said.

Don’t forget to build relationships with the people who procure pest management services to help them understand preventive pest management so you can move away from commoditized pricing models.

Likewise, the pest management industry needs to educate auditors, as current audit systems focus on compliance, not prevention. “The food companies are going to have to get away from these goofy audits and rely on science-based systems versus traps every so many feet apart,” said Collins.

Good training remains essential. The relationship between PMPs and clients “can get ruined in a heartbeat by a technician just not paying attention,” said Barile. And documentation, which has always been important in food accounts, has taken on an even higher priority with FSMA.

McCloud Services uses electronic logbooks, which make documentation accessible to multiple layers of personnel. This includes McCloud management, quality and technical teams, as well as the client’s key maintenance, operations, sanitation and management staff. This accessibility provides “extreme benefits” when it comes to monitoring pest trends and problems, said Pat Hottel.

The thoroughness of documentation remains key. “If a program is not a written program, it doesn’t exist; if an event is not recorded and documented, it did not happen,” reminded Steven Sklare of the Food Safety Academy. Be sure to record pest sightings and the corrective actions you’ve taken in response, like what you did to resolve an existing program and eliminate the problem’s root cause.

Far-Reaching Impact. Within the next five years, Barile expects the pest management services provided to food clients to be “radically different” than what most companies are delivering today.

The focus on prevention will influence pest management elsewhere, as well. “I’m seeing similar talk about FSMA-like culture regulation in healthcare,” said Barile. As such, PMPs may see regulatory or client-driven changes to pest services in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and doctor’s offices.

Barile also anticipates FSMA-like platforms being enacted at schools and for low-income housing. This could be a boon to the industry if PMPs embrace the shift as an opportunity and not view it as another regulation to manage, he said.

FSMA is the industry’s wake-up call, said Moore. “I think with the implementation of FSMA, it is highlighting the fact that our current system and the way we do things is broken,” he said.