Food safety may be the single most important barometer for how well a food plant is run. No other element of plant operations is more scrutinized by external agents or more likely to cause a shutdown if something goes wrong. The rub is that food safety can be threatened by something as seemingly harmless as a housefly.
From a food safety standpoint, even one fly is too many. Houseflies carry more than 100 known pathogens, including common causes of food-borne illness such as E. coli, salmonella, shigella and staphylococcus. And, studies show that for every fly seen, there may be up to 19 that remain unseen. During the summer months, fly populations will multiply in your vicinity, so the chance of them becoming a food safety threat is even greater.
Why are flies so dangerous?
As a species, flies will feed and lay their eggs in decaying organic material like animal carcasses and feces as well as any and all human foods. Naturally, as they come into contact with this decaying matter, they pick up countless bacteria. At any one time a fly may have a half-billion bacteria, protozoa, viruses, rickettsia or other germs crawling on the outside of its body.
Flies also can cover large distances very quickly, meaning they can be landing on otherwise sanitary surfaces in your plant minutes after feeding on feces a mile away. And, they don't just stumble across your plant. They are drawn to it. Adult flies are keenly aware of and attracted to the odors that often come from food manufacturing facilities.
Because flies can deposit harmful bacteria every time they land, they represent an immediate threat to food safety if they manage to infiltrate your food supply. When they feed on your ingredients and products, the chances of contamination are greater still.
What you can do to protect your plant?
Given the many potential entry points in most food plants, how can you stop flies from coming in? Without question, the best way to protect your food supply from flies is to implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan, preferably one designed by a pest management professional. IPM plans focus on making an environment unattractive to pests so they can be controlled with limited pesticide use. Such a program makes your facility unfriendly and unattractive to flies, making it less likely that they will want to infest. he following are just a few IPM tips that can help make your facility safer from flies and the germs they can spread:
•Use positive airflow. Consult an HVAC or pest management professional about creating a situation in which air flows out of the building when doors are open, rather than pulling outside air in. This will make it very difficult for flying insects to enter. t the very least, install air curtains, which achieve a similar effect, or plastic strip-doors in receiving areas to minimize airflow from the outside.
• Use lighting strategically. Flies are attracted to fluorescent lights, so if you mount these lights at least 100 feet from the entrance of your plant, it will help to draw flies away from entrances. At entrances that must have lights, install sodium vapor lights, which are less attractive to flying insects.
•Because the smell of decaying material is so enticing to flies, you should review your waste management program regularly to make sure refuse is removed in a timely manner. You should periodically have the dumpster cleaned or rotated.
•Receiving areas are major "hot spots" for flies, because of their openness to the outdoors and regular shipments of foodstuffs. Train your employees to be on the lookout for flies and other pests. Be sure to let your pest management professional know if there are any sightings.
Effective IPM programs will include most, if not all, of the above tactics. The best programs also will generate extensive documentation on fly sightings and the various prevention techniques that have been employed. By basing your program on thorough documentation, you can better target the source of pest problems, minimize the use of toxic chemicals and be better prepared for audit as well.