The most disturbing news flashed recently in the world dailies of rodents feasting on a new born twin in a Rawalpindi hospital in Pakistan was horrifying but unfortunately this is not the first time! Many such incidents go unreported too. Equally distasteful are reports of rats and flyinfestation in hospital / hotel kitchens. Are these sheer acts of negligence or faulty measures of pest management? Clean India Journal discusses the issues of preventive measures in pest management with a couple of industry experts
Healthcare & Pharma
The common scenario outside healthcare centres in India is abuzz with hawkers and eateries catering to visitors, who invariably carry food inside the hospitals too. The leftover food unthinkingly thrown within and outside the premises has turned hospitals into ideal rearing grounds for pests. “Moreover, hospital staff in most cases is ill-trained in taking simple preventive measures and a little training would go a long way in keeping pests at bay,” says Sam Easaw, Managing Director-Rentokil India. More often than not windows improperly shut or left open for ventilation makes way for flies and mosquitoes into the hospital premises.
Over and above, the investment in pest control measures or engaging pest management expertise is limited or as good as nil. There are simple preventive measures like putting proper netting systems on the windows that go a long way in preventing pests from making any premises their home ground.
“The approach towards pest control is based on Exclusion, Restriction, Destruction & Monitoring factors. Exclusion is related to the hygiene factors where we look at the hygiene of the external environment and study the challenges. Accordingly, the pest entry is prevented by sealing or proofing the holes or the cracks before introducing pest treatment. Thereafter, the effectiveness of the treatment is monitored through monitoring stations,” explains Sam. There are a variety of monitoring stations for different pests which help ascertain the level of pest infestation.
The ERDM principle has been found effective worldwide, says Sam. However, any kind of pest control system adopted internally would turn out to be a temporary solution if the external surrounding factors are not favourable. Quoting an example of the scene close to the pharma hub in Hyderabad, Sam says, “The approach road leading to the pharma units in this industrial area is laden with cowdung and garbage. This is a major challenge that we face in pest management.”
Be it pharma, food processing or healthcare, the customer opting for pest management systems has to be made aware of the various preventive measures required for successful pest control. “A typical customer outsourcing pest management, expect the solutions provider to ensure a pest free premises in any given circumstances. It is essential to educate the customer on preventive measures both indoors and outdoors for effective delivery of solutions.
“We usually run a pest awareness programme on site for the customer staff for better understanding of the pest measures. In order to emphasise on the preventive measures like proofing or sealing, we also initiate measures at our expense to convince the customer.”
While the challenges in implementing preventive measures are many, there has been a shift in the Indian market, especially in the IT and other related sectors that are now more open to adopting suggestions offered by professional pest companies.
“Documentation of the success of pest control systems has contributed to this shift to a large extent. When it comes to pharma or healthcare, documentation of the pest control measures and results also help in meeting the requirement of statutory audits conducted at the premises. Even though the challenges are many in these sectors, there is progress,” says Sam.
Food processing units & Kitchens
The objective of pest control is to prevent pest access and eliminate potential breeding sites. As part of preventive measures, besides sealing gaps or cracks or putting window screens, the gap at the floor level should be reduced, says Zakir Hussain, GM-Delhi, Pest Control of India Ltd. At many places, there are big gaps of more than 6mm at the door from the floor level which allow crawling pests to get inside the production area. “Enviro Seal or Door seal should be put at the bottom of the door to prevent pest ingress.”
Pests follow the same route as we do to enter inside a building. However, they make their way into the premises also through the commodities transported inside the production area. “Generally, cockroaches come along with various food items like cartons, soft drink crates, egg crates, corrugated box, mineral water box or grocery item within the factory area. They can re-infest the area which has already been pest controlled and managed.”
“Take care of the receivables and seal all the gaps or harbourage area where pests are hiding or breeding like damaged tiles, damaged floors and electric switch panels.Suitable sealants will fill the gap and bind to the surfaces and will not reopen immediately. Avoid using POP, cement or mortar to fill the gaps.”– Zakir Hussain
Corrugated boxes are the best harbourages for German cockroaches and provide them the most favourable condition for multiplication. The glue starch used in pasting the corrugated boxes serves as food for small German cockroaches. Corrugated boxes serve as the route for cockroaches which get transported to warehouses, wholesale dealers or to the stores. They need to be removed at the entry point itself.
“We need to identify in the beginning itself what kind of pest problem is being faced, what are the various re-entry routes from where it can re-infest the area. Thereafter, one needs to explore harbourages in the production area, where the pests are multiplying, breeding and hiding and study the biotic factors helping their multiplication.”
Onion and potato bags will bring in a lot of pests, cockroaches and mice. “First of all, we need to empty it out in the receiving area. It should be washed, cleaned and then brought into the store. By adopting this simple method, re-infestation of these pests can be eliminated.”
MNCs follow these norms because it has been mandated in the form of SOPs and Food Safety norms. Small food manufacturers and restaurants generally do not follow these guidelines. The outcome is that their kitchen area gets re-infested or cross-infested very often. They go for pest control on weekly schedule basis or calendar basis. “PCOs who are called in to spray the kitchen could be harmful as most of them are not trained to identify the harbourages of cockroaches. It also requires a good amount of experience to identify the location and apply the pesticide in the crack or crevice with the help of precision application techniques and tools. This can be done with equipped hands only.”
If this is not done properly, the area will again get contaminated and in that case food contact surfaces and finally food could get contaminated. “Fumes of the pesticide can badly impact the health of the staff. These fumes can land anywhere and can contaminate indoor air quality.”
Inspection should be done to ascertain what kind of pest problem exists and what is required for the same. “On the basis of inspection, we need to identify the hazard of the distribution of the pest within the building. We need to also assess whether these pests are breeding internally or migrating from somewhere else or whether they are re-infesting or cross infesting within the production area.”
Speaking of the kitchen area, Zakir says, “Some people do not clean the kitchen area and generally forget to empty out the garbage bin during the night. Keeping the garbage bin intact during the night will provide food for pests. Kitchen area should be cleaned during the night because pests become active during the night and can multiply. This way we can eliminate the chances of feeding the pests.
“If equipment in the commercial kitchen area like the dough making machine suddenly goes out of order and is replaced by another machine from the maintenance area, it can be a potential source of re-infestation. Another potential source of re-infestation is the staff locker room as the staff uniform may transport pests.”