And yet, so many of these purchased foods’ origins — from production and retail facilities to restaurants — are chock-full of the means that foster ideal food, water and shelter sources for pathogen-spreading pests. Rodents, cockroaches, ants, flies and birds thrive in these environments, and can generate unsanitary conditions that compromise public health if left unchecked.

In fact, this year 1 in 6 Americans will suffer from a foodborne illness, according to the CDC. Fortunately, efforts are underway to help curb that figure. Recent implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requires food processing and handling facilities to operate under increased regulatory oversight and to change facility protocols to comply with legal standards.

Likely pest environments

One way leaders in the food industry can help to reduce the likelihood of pest contamination of food products, and ensure their companies are in compliance with FSMA, is to implement an integrated pest management (IPM) program. IPM professionals aren’t just helpful in preventing infestations that can lead to product contamination — they are also keen to tailor pest management practices to a facility’s specific environment, providing practical, sustainable prevention plans instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.

“Whatever their facility type may be, leaders in the food industry should be fully aware of the crucial role IPM plays in providing safe goods to consumers...”

Dry food facilities, for example — such as flour, rice and feed mills — are attractive to pests needing minimal water to live, including beetles and rodents. IPM professionals know that vacuums are preferred for collecting food particles, dust, insect eggs and adult insects, as opposed to compressed air, which can scatter particles in the facility, widening the range for potential infestation.

In contrast, wet or liquid food facilities, like beverage plants and breweries, tend to have moist environments, and they characteristically involve liquid cleanup procedures for sanitizing equipment. These facilities require proper water-management systems and drainage to effectively clean tools while minimizing excess water that attracts pests such as flies and cockroaches.

Taking responsibility

Restaurants and food service facilities must answer to their customers who might encounter pest infestations first hand, damaging brand reputation; but more than that, these facilities are legally bound to health codes that can impose severe fines and sometimes lead to permanent closures. Restaurants require stringent pest control procedures in place, with a program that calls for regular, intensive inspections to combat potential infestations and the contamination that can come with them.

Whatever their facility type may be, leaders in the food industry should be fully aware of the crucial role IPM plays in providing safe goods to consumers in an effort to uphold their responsibility to protect public health.

After all, FSMA’s watchful eye isn’t the only thing facility owners must answer to — a customer’s trust, which is quick to dissipate at the first sign of a pest infestation, is not so easy to regain and is the key to a healthy bottom line.