Vigilant prevention of infestations by rats and mice is a must in the food manufacturing industry. It is vital for the health and safety of your customers, workers, your reputation and your business. It is also backed up by The Food Safety Act 1990
and The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006
which require that you ensure adequate procedures are in place for controlling pests.
This is not a task that can be completed only once. It must be part of the firm’s culture to be on alert for any signs of mice or rats.
Things to watch for are:
- Gnawed materials or teeth marks on food or wood.
- Droppings that are shiny are a sure sign of the current presence of rodents and must be investigated immediately.
- The stale odour produced by rodents can linger after the population has been exterminated. However, the manufacturer must be on the watch for this distinctive odour.
- Urine pillars are piles of dust, debris and urine. These pillars indicate a long standing population exists.
- Rats and mice are creatures of habit. They tend to follow the same path leaving smears as indicators. The appearance of smears left by the natural oil in the rodent’s skin on pipes, entry points and on “runs” frequented by rodents is another indication of long standing populations.
- Rodent tracks in dusty areas.
- Harbourages and burrows provide living space for rats and mice. Look for any area that may appeal to rodents. An active harbourage will be free from cobwebs and debris.
Prevention is Straightforward
- Prevent access, disinfect food processing areas and secure waste materials.
Food manufacturers undergoing a routine inspection can be shut down immediately for rodent infestation. This can happen regardless of if a complaint is issued prior to the closure or not. This manufacturer immediately loses its ability to make money. Until such a time as it can prove to Local Authorities that the infestation has been resolved, the manufacturer cannot reopen. There is also significant concern with the ability to recall potentially contaminated products. This was exactly the scenario for a supplier of biscuits and crackers to Aldi which you may have heard of in recent weeks.
- When it is apparent that a rat or mouse population has established itself, it is possible to take a hands-on approach with poisons or traps. However, when a food manufacturer is faced with the need to eradicate rodents, professional, commercial pest control must be consulted.
- Being vigilant in preventing infestation is the best option when weighed against the cost of shutting down and ruining the manufacturer’s reputation. Taking the steps necessary before a rodent infestation becomes established is the best approach.
- An infestation is not only costly. Besides being more difficult to eradicate an established rodent population, the product is seen as contaminated by the customer.
The time to implement vigilance is before rodents take control of a manufacturing facility. Once the unwanted rodents take up residence in a food manufacturer’s facility, the product becomes tainted in more ways than one. When it comes to food service, reputation is everything.