The ubiquity of digitized data has extended all the way into pest control. Data collection and analysis are becoming important weapons in food plants' war on pests – and maybe an asset in capital expenditure budgeting.
However, in a few years, sulfuryl fluoride cannot solve it. More on that later, but just last month the EPA issued a notice that it is considering phasing out the fumigant because of concerns about aggregate exposure to fluoride.
Back to the software. "Especially with more handheld devices in use, data analysis – understanding trends – can help you be proactive and preventive rather than reactive," says Jim Fredericks, director of technical services at the National Pest Management Association (www.pestworld.org), Fairfax, Va.
Fredericks admits not too manyfood & beverage companies that perform their own pest control are heavily into data analysis, but most of the pest management service firms are. "Another reason to use a pest management professional service," he says.
"If you see you're consistently getting mice on the west side of the building, data will show you that trend. Then you need to take a look at what's going on there. Maybe there's something wrong with your building construction. Maybe you need to address a problem that's outside of the plant," he says.
You can also see and foresee seasonal problems and address them before that season arrives.
Data collection and analysis also can be powerful persuaders for some capital projects. "It can support physical alterations requested by the plant manager. He can show how old doors are letting pests in [even how many and what kind], so maybe those doors need to be replaced with modern ones; how a crack in the wall is letting ants in and needs to be repaired, not just sprayed occasionally."
Another big issue for food & beverage companies is third-party food safety certifications. Pest management plays a role, although varyingly defined, in those programs.
"Different audit systems have different requirements," he says, but all or most require some kind of pest management plan. "One says external rodent traps need to be placed every 30 ft., another specifies 25 ft.," says Fredericks. "Our association is working to develop standard practices for all certification programs."
Orkin LLC (www.orkin.com) has been an advocate of integrated pest management (IPM), "an environmentally friendly pest management approach [that] emphasizes multiple methods of non-chemical pest control and prevention," according to Orkin marketing.
Mission Foods, a Goldsboro, N.C., maker of tortillas, was among the four 2010 Gold Medal IPM Partner Award winners. The awards are presented annually by Orkin, the IPM Institute of North America (www.ipminstitute.org) and NSF International. Mission and the other winners used Orkin's Gold Medal Protection, a comprehensive IPM service that focuses on vigilant sanitation, adherence to structural pest management recommendations, record keeping and staff participation in IPM training sessions.
(The other IPM winners were Ice River Springs, a Kentland, Ind., water bottler; Tarrier Foods Corp., Columbus, Ohio, co-packers of chopped candies, ice cream toppings and salad toppings; and The Cheesecake Factory Bakery Inc., the Calabasas Hills, Calif., bakery for The Cheesecake Factory restaurants.)
Indianapolis-based Dow AgroSciences (www.dowagro.com) is "disappointed" with a Jan. 10 EPA announcement of a proposal for a multi-year phase out of food tolerances for sulfuryl fluoride. The fumigant is "important to the sustainability of the U.S. food supply," Dow says, because it protects warehouse-stored foods from contamination by pests such as rats, moths and cockroaches.
"Sulfuryl fluoride is also the sole practical alternative for food processing and storage facilities to another product [methyl bromide] recently phased out due to concerns about safeguarding the earth's protective ozone layer," Dow officials say.
Through the 90-day public comment period, which should end in April, Dow "is working with government and affected agricultural stakeholders toward a resolution of this issue that addresses the public's need for a safe, affordable and sustainable food supply," said Stan Howell, vice president-North America for Dow AgroSciences.
Copesan Services Inc. (www.copesan.com), a Milwaukee-based alliance of regional, independent pest management firms, adds to the discussion a bug that has enjoyed a phoenix-like recovery and made the evening news programs. "Yes, bed bugs can even be a challenge in food processing," says a spokesperson for the company.
Bed bugs can enter a food or beverage plant with an employee or on a truck delivering something. Once inside, their hitchhiking nature enables them to easily move everywhere people move, spreading the problem to employee desks, locker rooms and more.
"The resurgence of these virulent pests, which had been virtually eradicated in the U.S., has created many challenges for pest management companies, but also opportunities to help our clients be proactive," says Deni Naumann, Copesan president. "Even in a food processing environment, where a bed bug seems unlikely, taking basic steps such as creating a bed bug plan with your pest management provider's assistance is an important way to minimize your risk and eliminate any panic should your facility encounter a bed bug problem."