When is Sanitation Not Pest Management?

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 insure that food debris is not moved to inaccessible areas without further cleaning attention.

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Here are some tips for guiding food manufacturers in their cleanup efforts:

  • In some facilities like 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 for vacuuming. 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 inaccessible areas such as ceiling voids, overhead pipes and electrical boxes creating even more cleanup challenges. In addition, if there are insects harboring in the product, the insects can be moved with the air blast to new harborages. 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 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, food facilities 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 overtime 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 to ensure that sanitation is pest control.

About the author

Patricia Hottel is technical director at McCloud Services, based in South Elgin, Ill. McCloud Services serves the largest food-related brands in the U.S. For more information, please visit www.mccloudservices.com.

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