Pests eating away at your reputation?

In the past year, there have been several instances of pest and rodent problems identified by regulatory agencies or otherwise made publically known. In November, 2017 all products being stored at a warehouse in New Mexico were seized by the FDA. During the FDA’s inspection, live cats and birds as well as numerous findings of bird and rodent excrement were identified. The amount of product affected by this seizure was not publicly available. A similar incident occurred in June during which the FDA seized over $71,000 of product being stored in a warehouse located in Minnesota. Live birds, dead rodents and rodent excrement were identified in the facility. Management at the facility told reporters that they had a contracted pest control service in place at the time of the incident. In November, 2017, a Kentucky-based dairy facility was shut down by the FDA for the presence of beetles in finished product as well as insects within the building. In October, 2017, a meat plant in Pennsylvania voluntarily halted production to address a pest issue at the facility. The monetary loss associated with this stop in production is unknown.

These are only a handful of examples where pest control issues have resulted in monetary losses and, possibly more damaging, loss in reputation. Most, if not all, of these facilities had contracted pest control companies performing services at their site; however, in most of these cases there seems to be a clear lapse in oversight or management of the contracted pest control activities. Too many companies look at pest control as being solely the responsibility of the contract company and assume that activities are being carried as intended. What many fail to realize is that pest and rodent infestation reports, which are made public, don’t focus on the pest control company, it is the food manufacturing or storage company’s reputation that is damaged.

From a third-party audit company perspective, we expect site management to be intimately familiar with pest control activities being performed, pest findings, corrective actions related to pest findings and trends. Because it is the manufacturer’s reputation at stake, site management should be familiar with pest findings from each pest control visit and should be involved in reviewing trends and reassessing the pest control program. The expectation is that pest control be managed with as much rigor as foreign material control or other food safety programs. Additionally, we at FSNS C&A are changing our approach when auditing the external areas of the facility. Our focus going forward will not only be on the primary production facility but will also include areas excluded from the scope of the audit and other outlying areas for the presence of pest harborage.

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