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Pest Management Prioritization after Peanut Corp

Pest Management: A Secondary Issue?

Excerpt from Quality Assurance Magazine October 2010

In food manufacturing, pest management is accepted as a necessity. Yet, in practice, when every penny and every moment must be spent strategically, the necessary financial and time commitment to proper pest management tends to fluctuate. The critical importance of pest management is often minimized and even 'rationalized away' when there are decisions to be made regarding day-to-day operations. Yet, a consistent focus upon developing a strong pest management program a program that includes regular inspections and audits, proactive pest-proofing measures and immediate action when facing a potential infestation is essential to providing consumers with safe and healthy food products.

A willingness by corporations to view pest management as anything less than a top organizational priority can lay the groundwork for significant future problems. Although efficient and even increased production is the central goal of any food facility, this goal cannot be met at the expense of consumer safety. Corporate executives and food facility managers must ensure that all links within the food safety chain are properly maintained, with pest management as an important link in this chain. Pest management, especially in a food facility, should not be a line item that is shifted, reduced or simply cut when other business issues arise, as it plays a vital role in protecting the health of consumers. That alone is a compelling reason for facility managers to make a strong financial investment in proper pest management.

The presence of pests dead and alive in the Georgia PCA Plant is also a reminder of the significant health risks associated with pest infestations. No matter the size or severity of an infestation, a pest problem is not a situation to be taken lightly. Cockroaches, rodents and other pests are known to transmit diseases, including Salmonella, which is carried and spread simply on the body and hairs of pests.

With such knowledge of the potential health threats related to pest infestations, it is inconsistent that there should be any obstacles to the implementation of a strong pest management program. Yet, as the PCA situation proved and as many firms can likely attest pest management often faces challenges in asserting its rightful place among "top priorities," for corporations. These challenges, well-recognized within the industry, may have contributed to the PCA crisis in ancillary ways. Yet, regardless of how large or small their underlying role in this crisis, these challenges should be addressed and discussed as government, corporate executives and food facilities work to strengthen future oversight initiatives. If there are to be forthcoming changes in how food facilities are inspected, audited, evaluated and treated then it is critical that three particular challenges related to pest management that of organizational priorities, clarity of standards and service benefits must be more deeply discussed within the context of a post-PCA world.