Pests can run, crawl, fly and hitch-hike their way into retail stores. Some paths are obvious like a door which is left open or poorly sealed, and some not so obvious. Here are two common ways pests can hitchhike into your store.
Staff and Contractors
Hard to believe that our employees could be bringing pest into the workplace. However, several urban pests are excellent at hitch-hiking on people. These include the German cockroach and the common bed bug. We routinely find that when these pests inhabit workplaces, they arrive on the belongings of employees.
A recent QA Magazine survey of food plant personnel revealed the following statistics when people were asked, where were cockroaches have been found in their facility:
Employee Breakrooms / Kitchens – 58%
In/Around Employee Lockers – 34%
Exterior of the Facility – 26%
Around Drains – 23%
Around Garbage Bins – 15%
Processing Area – 13%
Pallet and Storage Areas – 13%
The highest percentage of findings were in and around areas where employee’s store their personal belongings. Having a separate area for employees to store their belongings, including lunches, is critical. Training and monitoring employees for compliance is also part of the process. The pest management firm should inspect these areas for pest activity during service. Regularly schedule employee locker clean-outs a part of the monitoring and inspection process to help perform a deeper dive on areas of potential activity. Facilities should have a policy in place to deal with employees who have been found to be the sources of pests such as bed bugs. These policies should be established prior to the first incident since it will require the involvement of multiple departments including human resources. A timely response means having the action plan in place prior to the first incident.
Just as pests can hitch-hike on employees, pests can hitch-hike on products and supplies shipped to the store. A detailed inspection of incoming goods is required to make sure that hitchhikers are excluded. Once the product has been accepted into the site, it can be difficult to establish responsibility for the pest infestation. In addition, an introduced pest may go unnoticed until populations have reached critically high numbers. A good example of this issue is pallet mice which can be harboring in the center of a palletized product stack. Pallet mice can remain inside that stack where food is available and begin to infest neighboring products. Numbers can build up quickly and compromise food safety. A proper inspection program can help reduce this risk. Check between the top and bottom decks of the pallets while elevated on the forklift to look for droppings at a minimum. Keep in mind that non-food items can be sources of pests too. Mice have been known to come in with firewood, and bags of charcoal.