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Turn up the H-E-A-T on pests this winter.

In the winter, everyone spends more time inside where it's warm. Pests are no different when it comes to finding a cozy place to ride out the cold weather. As temperatures begin to dip, pests start looking for places to stay warm, often in large commercial buildings. Food processing facilities offer abundant warmth, access to a variety of food sources, a wide range of potential entry points, and often, plenty of nooks and crannies where pests can reproduce without being noticed.

Of course, food plants are no place for pests of any kind. Pests can contaminate food ingredients and jeopardize food safety audit scores, and once they infest, they can be hard to remove. Fortunately, plant managers and their employees can take a number of steps to reduce the likelihood of an infestation this winter.

Here are a few simple tips for turning up the H-E-A-T on pests as the colder months approach.


Help deter pests from seeking out your facility

The heat and odors emanating from your building are attractive to pests. Fortunately, there are adjustments you can make to deter pests from coming too close. First, trim any landscaping back at least 12 inches from the building. This will keep pests from using branches as a bridge to your facility. Install a two foot wide gravel strip around the perimeter of the building. Rodents do not like to be out in the open and this will eliminate the vegetation they use as "cover."

Even in the cold, smelly dumpsters can attract pests looking for a meal. Work with your waste management company to clean and rotate dumpsters regularly. Keeping waste residue to a minimum will help keep pest-attracting odors in check. Never let boxes or other trash pile up next to the building. Pests tempted by the trash will wander too close for comfort, thereby being more likely to find entry points



Eliminate entry points

Have your maintenance staff seal all holes and crevices in the facade of your building. If you can fit a pencil through the opening it needs to be sealed. Remember that mice can fit through a hole the size of a dime and rats can fit through a hole the size of a quarter. For extra protection, incorporate steel wool into the caulking to prevent rodents from gnawing through the seal. Make sure to install weather stripping around doors and windows, and install door sweeps to keep pests from coming in.


Watch out for other common pest entry points. Keep in mind that in addition to sneaking in your facility through holes, rodents and insects also can enter on palates or crates. As a general rule, doors should remain closed whenever possible, and if necessary, install plastic strip curtains or a double-door for frequently used entry-ways.


Adjust your sanitation and facility maintenance programs

Small changes to your sanitation and facility maintenance programs can have a big impact on preventing pests. Remember to not only pay attention to the plant floor and equipment, but employee areas as well. Line and seal all trash cans and dispose of waste regularly. Ask employees to keep food stored in resealable plastic containers and to clean out lockers regularly.

On the plant floor, clean drains and equipment with an organic cleaner to eliminate the residue that pests can feed on. Monitor for spills and clean them immediately--pests only need a small amount of moisture to survive. Facility maintenance staff should pay particular attention to HVAC units which are a common culprit for providing pests with water. Always look on top of, behind, and underneath when inspecting equipment and other hard-to-reach places.



Train your employees to help

Ensure that all employees are well educated on pest prevention--they are your eyes and ears when it comes to preventing and controlling pests. A reputable pest management professional will be able to educate your staff on what to look for when it comes to pests. This not only includes pests themselves, but also the conditions that attract them. Make sure employees feel comfortable reporting any issues and provide a central spot to document pest sightings. A problem that is not addressed immediately can help pests enter your facility.

Winter pest infestations can be hazardous and bothersome, but they can be prevented. By taking action as the weather cools, plant managers can effectively hang a "no vacancy" sign for pests looking to escape the cold. The result is fewer infestations, better food safety and better audits. That's something we can all warm up to.

For more information about pest management, e-mail Dr Zia Siddiqi at or visit

Zia Siddiqi, Ph.D., B.C.E., Director of Quality Systems, Orkin Inc.
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Author:Siddiqi, Zia
Publication:Food Manufacturing
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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