Debugging Transportation & Food Safety Issues with IFC

May 7, 2021
What are the three biggest pest management concerns food and beverage processors face during transportation? We cover that and more during this special bonus episode of the Food For Thought Podcast.

We recently talked to Pamela Peckman and Sharon Dobesh of the Industrial Fumigant Company (IFC) to gain a better understanding of the pest control issues that can arise during food and beverage transportation. During the next 20 minutes we talk about common pests found in shipping as well as regulations surrounding sanitation and pest-free shipping. Stick around until the end, where we discuss preventative measures food facilities can take as well as specific ways IFC can help food and beverage processors with their pest management programs. 

Enjoy the Episode


Erin: What are the three biggest food safety or pest management concerns food processors face during transportation?

Pamela: The three biggest pest management concerns faced during transportation are microbial concerns, physical foreign material concerns by way of arthropods, birds, rodents, and also chemical contamination concerns. Food safety and security during transportation is critical.

Erin: What are some common pests found during inbound and outbound shipping?

Sharon: Some of the most common pests that we find inbound are rodents, mice or rats, ants, and other things that might be in the food. Outbound shipping pests are going to be very similar. If door seals are not sealed on the trucks during transportation, anywhere along that route something could potentially enter that shipment. That's when you find signs of unwanted hitchhikers or product pests that may have found their way into the product even before shipping began.

Erin: Is there specific pest that is more likely to cause a problem during transportation?

About IFC

The Industrial Fumigant Company (IFC) is a national provider of pest management and sanitation solutions exclusively to the food industry. The company has worked directly with the food and commodity industries since 1937. Learn more about them on their website

Sharon: Rodents are one of your biggest problems if they get trapped in a trailer. They can do a lot of damage both physically by gnawing and scratching and chewing the product as well as if they urinate causing stains and odors. A nest of mice can do a lot of damage to product in transportation.

Pamela: The other problem with rodents is their fecal pellets are small and dark in color. If fecal pellets are present on a pallet that might have been stored in an exterior storage area and then they bring those pellets in and load them, that dropping may get missed. Now you've got the dropping being shipped with product and somebody investigating or inspecting the new area may find that pellet and think the rodent is still present. Also, product insects are pretty tiny too. It’s possible to have infestation in a storage area that then gets shipped along the way.

Erin: Why is pest-free shipping an important aspect of an integrated pest management program?

Sharon: You don't want to send an insect problem to another site or facility and you want good clean products to arrive so it's not rejected. Pest-free shipping is very important from the point of spreading a problem. It's also very important in terms of keeping food clean. More recently, we've come across the situation, with pests that are maybe not directly food pests, but they occur in an area where there's a quarantine pest. Even exteriors of trucks may need to be inspected so that you're not carrying pests out to another area of the country where they do not exist and spread a quarantine problem to another area.

Guest Profile: Sharon Dobesh

Sharon Dobesh began with IFC in June 2017 as the Director of Technical Services. She has more than 16 years experience as an Extension Specialist at Kansas State University in Pesticide Safety and IPM Programming, Honey Bee Specialist, and as the Great Plains Diagnostic Network Associate Director. Prior to working in extension, Sharon worked 7 years for the Missouri Department of Agriculture as a Plant Protection Specialist inspecting nursery stock, greenhouses, turf farms, and exports.

Erin: Are there any regulations about sanitation for pest-free shipping?

Pamela: The Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Foods was first published June of 2016, and that was by the Food and Drug Administration. If you remember, the Food Safety and Modernization Act that was passed by Congress. It is actually implemented by FDA and they generated several different rules; the Sanitary Transportation Rule was one of them.

It actually covers a lot of parties that are involved with the transportation process. Some of these requirements may be new to carriers who haven't been as involved in the food industry, but they do transport the food. These requirements are found at 21 CFR 1.900-934, and they require written agreements between the parties, procedures, and training records. Those items have to be in place in the event FDA stops by for an inspection. When you take a closer look at some of those sections under the Sanitary Transportation Rule, they actually talk about the definition for applying whether food's adulterated within the meaning of Section 402. They define pest to mean any objectionable animal or insect, including birds, rodents, flies, and larvae.

The transportation regulations talk about vehicles and transportation equipment used in transportation operations which must be so designed, and as such, material and workmanship be suitable and adequately cleanable for their intended use. That is to prevent the food they transport, obviously, from becoming unsafe or adulterated within the meaning of 402(a) of the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. They also have one last thing in there under pest management and that is vehicle and transportation equipment must be stored in a manner that prevents it from harboring pest or becoming contaminated in any manner that could result in food from becoming unsafe during transportation.

Guest Profile: Pamela Peckman

Pamela joined IFC in March 1993, assisting with the development and implementation of safety and environmental health programs. She has logged numerous hours of pest management service work, commodity and space fumigations, facility pest management auditing, and is a certified pesticide applicator in several states. In her current role as Regulatory and Technical Services Manager, Pamela is involved in government/legislative affairs and with developing company-wide programs, including fumigation management plans, methyl bromide critical use programs, and organic facility programs. She continues to be involved with planning and presentation of training programs to the food and pest management industry.

Erin: Why is proper pest identification so important?

Sharon: To begin to address any pest issue, you need to know what you're looking at. First of all, to know where it might've been picked up along the way or to know how and what methods might be available to control or contain it. Also, if you want to do root cause discovery to be able to go back and do some trace back work, you need to know the biology of the pest, the types of habitats that it likes, know the life stage that you're working with. And these are all important.

Pamela: Another reason why it's important is you need to verify you actually have a problem. Sometimes you think you have a problem that's pest-related and it ends up not being. For example, you may find moths on the surface of some shrink-wrap pallets and you're worried that you have a stored-product insect there. You then figure out that it was an occasional invader-type moth that got in because the loading doors were open for an extended period of time and the moths happened to die inside the trailer.

Erin: What should a processor do if they get a positive ID on a pest?

Sharon: The first thing you're going to want to do is go back to where that positive ID test came from. You need to determine the extent of the problem. That's where we delve into our IPM toolbox and start using the tools that we have available.

We have a lot of tools in the toolbox that we can start applying. And it depends on how isolated or how far spread the problem is as to maybe some of the tactics that need to be implemented. The next steps are trying to drill down and figure out what was the source of it, how did we get this problem, or was it one of those things that we did bring in an inbound shipment and unloaded, and now we need to gain control of it?

Erin: What are some preventative measures a facility can take with shipping?

Pamela: Focus on well-trained employees, great sanitation programs, and monitoring, inspection, and exclusion programs specific to your shipping and receiving site. It's also important to have a detailed inspection checklist and procedures to follow in the event product must be put on hold and investigate closer.

Erin: What are some specific ways IFC can help food and beverage processors with their pest management programs?

Sharon: At IFC, we offer a lot of tools and help to food processors. We will do insect and pest identification. We can provide biology and literature and we've done training seminars. We help with companies that will want to set up threshold documents. We also help with trending reports and reading the data that they're getting within their facilities to help identify problems. We can also give advice on things like what exclusion measures may need to be taken and do site assessments.

Pamela: We also have very knowledgeable technicians that can assist with facility assessments, design of site-specific integrated pest management programs, ongoing inspection and monitoring programs. One other thing that we're very good at doing is on-site training of employees. If you're setting up an inspection program for your trailers, we can help with training employees on what to look for, what the different insects of concern are, some of the procedures for inspecting a trailer, that type of thing.

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