Audit time is one of the most important events on the calendar for a meat processing facility. A failing score can hamper your operations, potentially threatening your relationships with customers and your bottom line. An important part of your audit, pest control can account for up to 20 percent of your score, and for good reason: pests can carry pathogens, including Shigella and E. coli, which can cause food borne illness.
Always on the lookout for food, water and shelter, pests can sense the warmth and odors emanating from a meat processing facility as a signal that all those conditions are available inside. This means your facility is always vulnerable, so it is necessary to proactively take steps to keep pests out at all times. Implementing a proactive Integrated Pest Management program (IPM) can help ensure that your facility is on par with or exceeding your auditor's pest control requirements.
IPM is an ongoing cycle of seven steps that focuses on eliminating conditions that attract pests. This approach includes keeping pests from entering the facility by sealing cracks and gaps in the building, as well as following a written sanitation program to remove food and water sources. Another key component of IPM is its emphasis on using non-chemical techniques before chemical treatments are ever considered, allowing for a healthier workplace for your employees and safer manufacturing environment for your product.
To keep your IPM program audit-ready all year long, consider the following tips:
• Monitor daily for signs of pest activity, including droppings, chew marks, and live or dead pests. Review your facility regularly for any needed sanitation or maintenance repairs.
• Examine the exterior of your facility for pest entry points. Seal openings around utility connections as well as cracks or gaps around windows and doors with weather-resistant sealant - remember that cockroaches only need a 1/16 inch gap to enter, while mice only need an opening the size of dime to access your building.
• Meet quarterly with your pest management professional to discuss your IPM program, as well as any facility updates (e.g. adjustments to employee entrances, changes in suppliers, etc.) that may affect your current pest control efforts.
• Document your pest management program. Keep up-to-date and accurate records, because auditors review this documentation as evidence of an effective pest management program.
While pest control is an ongoing effort, it's important to take some extra time the week before scheduled audits to thoroughly review your pest control program with your pest management professional. Look at your facility through the eyes of an auditor to make sure that you haven't missed anything, and make immediate plans to correct any issues that you might encounter. Pay special attention to the following:
• Examine the placement of traps and bait stations around the exterior and interior of your facility. Make sure they correspond with the site diagram kept in your documentation books - auditors will deduct points for discrepancies. Traps should be free of pests and chewed bait replaced.
• Take a final look at all of your documentation to ensure all needed records are present and updated. Consider keeping all documentation in a centralized logbook to allow the auditor to easily access all documents, such as service reports, corrective actions, pest activity reports, trend data, pesticide usage logs, pesticide labels, material safety data sheets (MSDS) and floor plans.
• Put some extra elbow grease into your sanitation program by picking up any trash around your facility and hosing down debris from waste areas. Ensure your employees are participating in your sanitation program by doing their part to prevent litter in communal areas, such as break rooms, which can draw pests inside your facility.
• Review the scores from your facility's last audit and correct the causes of any past deductions on the pest control section to avoid making the same mistakes twice.
The key to preparing for your audit is teamwork. Work with your pest management professional year-round to continually modify and improve your IPM efforts. And, keep an open line of communication with your employees when it comes to looking for pests and conditions that can lead to an infestation. Many reputable pest management providers will train your employees on how to identify signs of pests. With the help of your team, you can check off the days until audit day with anticipation instead of apprehension.
For more information,
e-mail Dr. Zia Siddiqi