Pests can be a nuisance for everyone, but for the food industry, they can be a real nightmare. These creepy, crawling and often flying creatures are annoyance for sure, though they are also the culprits behind many foodborne illnesses, creating a food safety problem. On top of that, infestations can lead to costly downtime in order to effectively eradicate a pest.

Because of that, prevention and exclusion is the best approach. But where are pests most likely to enter your facility? According to McCloud Services, a provider of pest control solutions, it is important that people understand the common ways pests can gain access to facilities to ensure that proper sanitation is maintained, and pests are kept out.

Patricia Hottel, technical director at McCloud, provides a list of 10 ways pests can enter your facility and how to prevent them from doing so:

1. Dumpster compactors: Food facilities must have a program in place for cleaning dumpsters and dumpster pads, especially during the warm weather months. They should also monitor the sealing around dumpster compactor chutes to prevent pest entry. The interior doors to the compactor chute should remain closed at all times when the chute is not in use.

2. Trailers and totes held for animal feed and farms: Traditionally, feed trailers are not routinely cleaned, which means that residues inside the trailer can support food for pests. If the food waste is dry, it could provide an area for pests to develop. If the food waste is moist, pests like flies can be supported.  Trailers and totes may be transported to sites that are less sensitive to pests and have poorer onsite sanitation.

3. Employees: Several urban pests are excellent at hitchhiking. These include the German cockroach and the common bed bug. Having a separate area for employees to store their belongings, including lunches, is critical. Monitoring these areas for pest activity is also important, with regularly scheduled employee locker clean-outs as a part of the monitoring and inspection process.

4. Trailers used for pallet and cardboard storage: It is not uncommon for facilities to use a trailer to store pallets or other items as a way to increase warehouse storage space. However, it is often difficult to completely seal around the warehouse door frame and trailer door juncture to exclude pests. Often these doors are left open to allow forklifts easy access to the stored items. These gaps, particularly along the base of the trailer can be six or more inches wide. The use of trailers with roll-up doors tends to provide a slightly better seal against the dock than trailers with double doors that swing open. The best remedy is to keep the dock doors closed while not in use. 

5. Incoming shipments: A thorough 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. An infestation can also go unnoticed until populations have reached critical numbers. A proper inspection program can help reduce this risk. Check between the top and bottom decks of the pallets while they are elevated on the forklift to look for droppings.

6. Negative building pressure: One of the most expensive structural deficiencies to correct is a negative pressure situation, which can be responsible for bringing a wide variety of insects into a structure. Negative pressure can pull insects into a building, whether they want to come inside or not. Insect-attractive lighting, building temperatures and food odors emanating from the structure can add to the complexity of the issue.

7. Improperly functioning air doors/curtains: Air curtains can provide a false sense of security when it comes to preventing pest entry, if the right air door is not selected and maintained. Over time, these doors may not function as well as originally installed or may not have been installed correctly in the first place. The proper airstream should be two to five inches wide at the nozzle and a minimum air velocity of 1,600 fpm of air, three feet above the floor and across the entire span of the door opening. The direction of the airflow should be slightly toward the exterior of the building for maximum effectiveness.

8. Dock plates: Because of the nature of a dock plate, there can be gaps around it, which are required to permit movement. The best dock systems consist of a plate that is lowered from an upright position into a trailer versus dock plates that are incorporated into the floor. Dock plates that are incorporated into the floor have spaces around the plate that need to be sealed with brushes or plates. Special care is needed to ensure a proper seal where the dock plate seal meets the door seal. Dock plate wells should be inspected regularly for product spillage and pest evidence.

9. The wrong screens used for doors, vents and windows: Some insects like fungus gnats and thrips will get through normal window screening and require a smaller mesh screen. All screens should be tight fitting and repaired if tears occur. Screens also need regular cleaning and maintenance.

10. Floor drains: The sewer system can provide an ideal harborage for pests like small flies, cockroaches and rats which can then travel into facilities. Drains that are seldom used for water management can be particularly problematic. If a drain is not needed for wastewater management, consider capping it. If it is needed and supporting pest entry, consider using special caps or screened “socks,” which will allow liquids to flow down the drain but help keep out pests.