Dangers of Pests in the Food Manufacturing Industry

Not only do pests leave you with a bad feeling in your stomach, but they are also notorious for transmitting pathogens that actually get us sick. From E. coli  and Salmonella to Listeria and Staphylococcus, pests can spread harmful microorganisms that lead to illnesses with unpleasant symptoms like gastrointestinal pain, fever and nausea.

Food processing facilities are a prime target for pests because food, water and hiding spaces are abundant, making your facility the perfect place for pests to settle in. Knowing how to spot potential pest problems and the strategies for keeping pests out of your facility can make all the difference in preventing these filthy guests from invading your business – and ruining your reputation.

When pest-contaminated food goes unnoticed and is shipped to customers, you risk facing the consequences of product recalls, which can lose your customers’ trust and impact the bottom line In 2018, a possible Salmonella outbreak in the meat industry caused a recall of more than 5,400 tonnes of unusable product, costing food processors millions of dollars.This recall isn’t the first of it’s kind, and it won’t be the last. That’s why it is essential for you to know how foodborne illnesses are transmitted and how to prevent them at your facility.

How Foodborne Illnesses Are Transmitted

Pathogens like E. coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus and Listeria can all be transmitted to people through contaminated food (download this tip sheet for more on these common contaminators). While there are several ways that food can become contaminated, pests are potential transmitters of harmful pathogens and are known to spread more than 250 microorganisms that can cause foodborne illnesses. Flies, cockroaches and rodents are the most common offenders, so take note of how these pests transmit illnesses throughout your facility – and how you can help prevent it:

Pests Know How to Sneak Inside

How much room is really needed for a pest to enter your space? Many persistent pests are able to fit through small gaps and cracks in windows, doors or the exterior of your facility.

For example, mice can squeeze through holes as small as 7 millimetres, while rats manage to push through holes as small as a quarter. Cockroaches are able to flatten their bodies to fit through narrow spaces and some species, such as the American cockroach, are even known to use sewers as a network to get inside.

TIP: To stop these stealthy intruders from sneaking in, perform a full inspection of your facility and pinpoint any potential structural deficiencies that will allow them in or provide harbourage:

  • Seal up any cracks and gaps in your building’s exterior.  
  • Repair or replace any worn screens, door sweeps or weather strips.
  • Keep exterior doors and windows shut.

Pests Can Spread Pathogens Quickly

Rodents and flies reproduce quickly and contaminate every surface they touch in your facility. As they navigate your property, rodents leave behind droppings, urine and fur. They also can chew through packaging and spread pathogens through their saliva as they eat your food product. A female housefly can produce up to 1,000 eggs in her short lifetime, allowing fly populations to grow exponentially. Because flies land frequently and regurgitate when they do so, there is reason to be concerned when they move from filthy surfaces like sewage and garbage to your food product.

Cockroaches also readily spread germs to human surfaces. These opportunistic feeders will eat just about anything, and the dangerous bacteria can stay in their systems for up to a month.

TIP: At the first sign of pest activity, it is time to break out the cleaning supplies. Regular sanitation and facility maintenance is a must to ensure the health and safety of your employees and customers:

  • Regularly clean floors, baseboards and walls to minimize sanitation issues left behind by unwanted mess-makers.
  • Wipe down areas like counters and cabinets.
  • Routinely dispose of trash and keep tight-fitting lids on waste receptacles.
  • Clean spills immediately and sweep up any crumbs or food product left on the floor.
  • Discard any litter that creates perfect pest hiding spots.

Defending Against Foodborne Illness

The first step in preventing a pest infestation – and avoiding the contaminants they carry – is to work with your Orkin Canada pest specialist and thoroughly inspect your property. We can help you identify problem spots or pressure points and determine the next steps to create an IPM plan. Areas with excessive moisture, overlooked food sources, overgrown vegetation, structural deficiencies and poor housekeeping or storage practices create ideal conditions for a pest population to thrive.

Keep in mind that no pest control program is the same for every business – a cookie-cutter approach won’t cut it. Instead, we’ll tailor your program to take into account the things that make your facility unique – like geography, climate, surrounding properties, the building’s age and your floor plan. Because pest pressures change over time, we’ll also establish a robust monitoring program to stay on top of any new pest activity and help stop a potential pest problem in its tracks.

What’s Next?

If you’re sick of pests and want to stop worrying about them spreading germs in your facility, give us a call. For a quick tip sheet on the common foodborne illnesses and how to protect your customers’ well-being, download this easy-to-read guide.


tip sheet for food borne illnesses