Media Mention / Quality Assurance & Food Safety
Pat Hottel, technical director for McCloud, contributes to Quality Assurance’s article, “COVID-19 Spreads Rodents”
Juxtaposition of business booms and busts exacerbates seasonal issues.
The cooling weather of fall and winter customarily brings increased rodent issues as rats and mice seek harborage from worsening conditions outdoors. But all expectations are that those rodent issues will be increased this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the virus spread, foodservice and retail establishments closed down, and people’s behaviors changed, so too did the spread and behaviors of rodents.
There seem to be two different extremes when it comes to rodent issues resulting from the pandemic’s impact on business, said McCloud Services Technical Director Patricia Hottel. “Some food facilities have seen a boom in business, and some have seen a decline in business, with temporary or permanent closures.” As such, she explained:
- Buildings left vacant can be more prone to rodent and other pest issues, providing undisturbed areas to harbor rodents, potentially impacting their neighbors as well.
- Those facing increased demand have less downtime for cleaning and maintenance, and decreased cleaning can equate to additional food availability for pests.
- Increases in outdoor dining and food consumption can increase food availability for rodents in the form of food scraps or garbage.
Add to that the juxtaposition of the booms and declines which can further exacerbate rodent issues. “If a facility is in an area where food resources have decreased due to business closures, rodent pressures may increase at that facility as they seek new sources of food,” Hottel said.
“Under the right conditions, rodents can be quite prolific and build up rapidly,” she added. This is especially true for the common house mouse. Thus, if there are increased rodent pressures on the exterior of the facility, additional vigilance is required. “Additional monitoring of areas in anticipation of that potential activity surge is advised. Making sure areas are properly pest proofed is essential.”
This means inspecting, excluding, monitoring, and responding to trends, Hottel said. “Make sure employees are reporting any activity observed and performing thorough inspections of incoming shipments. Share pest sightings and incoming shipment findings with the pest management company and partner with the pest management professional to correct conditions conducive to pests.”
Effective two-way communication is essential, she said, especially when changes are made to the facility and surroundings due to the pandemic. For example, Hottel has seen an expanded use of outdoor areas for breaks and food consumption. So increased attention should be paid to how the surfaces are cleaned, whether trash receptacles are sufficient to handle the additional refuse, etc.
MONITORING FOR CONTROL
“Monitoring provides an opportunity to respond to what trends are telling us regarding population increases or decreases, Hottel added. This is important in the measuring of external populations, evaluating the control tools that are in place, and ensuring that the control tools and preventative programs are sufficient.
While there will be some increases in rodent populations due to fall harvest and cold weather, “the same rules apply to any increase in rodent populations,” Hottel said. “Inspect, monitor, exclude, and respond to what our monitors and inspections are telling us with the appropriate actions.”