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Need for ongoing IPM in Food Processing

IPM is an ongoing process consisting of Inspection, Identification, Analysis, Preventive Control Measures, Treatment Selection, Monitoring and Documentation.

Inspection: The key to planning & executing an effective IPM program is inspection. Inspection at the beginning to plan out a program would continue at regular intervals depending on the local pest pressure, and environmental conditions. These inspections should focus on areas where pests are most likely to appear – receiving docks, storage areas, employee break rooms, sites of recent ingredient spills, etc.

Identification: Different pests have different behaviors. By identifying the problematic species, pests can be eliminated more efficiently and with the least risk of harm to other organisms and to the product.

Analysis : Pest Management Service provider needs to figure out why the pest is in the facility ? Is there food debris or moisture accumulation that may be attracting it? What about odors? How are the pests finding their way in – perhaps through the floors or walls? Could incoming shipments be infested? The answers to these and many other similar questions will lead to the best choice of control techniques.

Preventive control measures : As regular inspections reveal vulnerabilities in the structure and the manufacturing process, the pest management program should be modified to take these into account. One of the most effective prevention measures is exclusion, i.e., creating structural barrier to close potential entry points revealed during inspection. By physically keeping pests out, you can reduce the need for chemical counter measures. Likewise, sanitation and housekeeping will eliminate potential food and water sources, thereby reducing pest pressure.

Sanitation is critical to pest prevention in food facilities. Cleaning is simply removing dirt or debris, whereas sanitizing actually removes surface bacteria and microorganisms. One kernel of wheat, approximately 35 milligrams, can support the development of three red flour beetles, 21 flat grain beetles, and one Indian meal moth larvae. The need for food, moisture and oxygen is very minuscule for the pests in stored product and hence they can survive in the adverse conditions. Research has shown that pests can survive pesticide exposure when they have access to even small amounts of food.

Lighting: Proper outdoor lighting is required as pest and insects get attracted to them. Avoid lights on the structure close to a door / window. The lights should be away, but focusing on the structure so that the pest / insects are diverted away from the structure of the facility. Using Sodium vapour lamps is strongly recommended.

Treatment Selection: IPM stresses on the use of non-chemical control methods, such as exclusion or trapping. When these methods fail or are inappropriate for the situation, chemicals may be used in least volatile formulations in targeted areas to treat the specific spots and specific pest. In other words, use the right treatments in the right places, and only as much as you need to get the job done. Often, the “right treatment” will consist of a combination of chemical treatments to baiting to trapping. But by focusing on non-chemical options first, one can ensure that the pest management program is effectively managing pests at the least risk to the food safety program, non-target organisms and the environment.

Some of the methods where chemicals are used : Spraying of pesticides – ULV sprays, Fogging, Baiting; and Using permitted fumigants like Aluminium phosphide under supervision of government accredited and trained personnel. Some non-chemical treatment methods; Trapping – Glue boards, mechanical traps, cages, Pheromone traps; Vacuuming; Dry Heat Treatment to control pests in process machinery. There are products like Grain Pro super grain bags of various sizes available to store the grains and seeds in hermetic conditions without using any pesticide.

Monitoring: Since pest management is an ongoing process, constantly monitoring the facility for pest activity and operational changes can protect it against infestation and help eliminate existing ones. As the pest management service provider may not be available on 24 X 7 basis, the line staff of the processing units should be made aware of the pest management program and their role so that they become the daily eyes and ears for the success of the program. Employees should be sensitized on sanitation issues that affect the program and they should report any signs of pest activity, immediately.

Documentation: It is a reality of life that the food safety auditor’s visit can make or break a food processors business. Up-to-date pest management documentation is one of the first signs that indicates your facility takes pest control seriously. Important documents include a scope of service, pest activity reports, service reports, corrective action reports, trap layout maps, lists of approved pesticides, pesticide usage reports and applicator licenses.

To ensure that your IPM program reaches its potential, approach your relationship with your pest management professional as that of a partner and not just another vendor. Open communication and cooperation between you, your staff and your Pest Management service provider makes for a winning IPM program. The benefits are fewer headaches, safer products and better audit scores.

Siddharth Sarangpani
General Manager – Operations Excellence
Pest Control (India) Pvt Ltd

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