In this blog post I want to hone in on the kind of problems cockroaches can cause in the food production industry.
Here are just a few facts about cockroaches to remind you how gross they actually are, and why even the merest hint of cockroaches in a food production site is a huge problem.
- Cockroaches carry 33 different types of bacteria (E.coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Poliovirus to name a few)
- A cockroach can live for 2 weeks without its head
- Cockroaches can survive for a month without food
- A cockroach can run 4.83 KM/ hour
- There are over 3000 species of cockroaches globally
- Cockroaches are cannibalistic
Let's dive into the 5 main problem areas that cockroaches can cause in a food production facility:
1. Contamination Concerns
There are a host of contamination risks associated with cockroaches, partly due to the fact that their diet is vast and versatile. They feed on decaying matter, faecal matter, mould, animal carcasses, and on occasion even get into our food. Once they find their way into our food production facilities, they carry all of the bacteria from their previous locations with them.
They like to reside in dark damp spaces; the perfect place for them is the sewer and drainage systems and this is another reason we cannot allow them anywhere near our food, our production facilities or our work and living spaces.
As cockroaches move around they expel saliva on surfaces to “taste” the environment and they also do this to ingest their food. The contamination concerns grow as cockroaches have leeway to roam, as they defecate as they move along pathways. Their droppings and secretions leave bad odours that can permeate food packaging.
Cockroaches undergo an incomplete metamorphosis when they breed, meaning they only have three stages in their lifecycle: the egg, the nymph, and the adult stage. They leave their egg casings and cast skins in food production areas, and this in turn spreads contamination.
2. Distribution and Logistics:
Moving products around is not an easy task. Different products have different modes and methods of transport. In the food industry, there are so many different control methods for the movement of these goods, but in terms of pest control, there aren’t too many.
When it comes to cockroaches, we need to be extremely vigilant when it comes to receiving and dispatching food products. When looking into the supply chain of your products, ensure the relevant control measures are in place to protect you as a manufacturer and your customers as the end-user.
We know that the contamination spread by cockroaches is serious, so ensuring that there are checks and balances for your suppliers and your own production site is imperative. You don't want to be the distributor of any compromised, contaminated items, so my advice would be to ensure that your suppliers are informed and adhere to the same pest control standards.
3. TQM - Line Item Risk:
If you are in the production industry, you will know and understand the concept of Total Quality Management (TQM). In a very small and undetailed nutshell, it is the process of continuously identifying or implementing corrective actions within production, aiming at streamlining errors or even eliminating them all together.
Adopt this method into your receiving and dispatch processes (even if it is from one department to the next) and you can be 100% sure that your product is not compromised by pests and that you are avoiding any contamination or infestation concerns.
Implementing quality control checks on every item in your production line is imperative, as is ensuring that quality teams communicate any pest control concerns. They should be trained on pest awareness so that they are aware of the signs to look out for.
If your line items have similar base raw materials (for example flour, sugar, wheat) a cockroach problem in the base ingredients poses a risk to all your line items, so keeping a detailed eye on your providers is critical, and doing quality checks on all incoming raw materials before stock enters your production facility is imperative. As your product moves through the various stages of production, ensure that quality checks and balances are in place to mitigate the risk of potential contamination and infestation.
4. Brand Impact:
I'm sure we would all agree that finding a cockroach in a food product is unacceptable. The power of social media has changed the way businesses operate, and mitigating the risk of negative media attention is critical. They say "a picture is worth a thousand words" and consider how much worse the damage to your brand could become when that picture has the potential to go viral.
Food businesses cannot afford to have pest sightings in their products or on their premises. Brand reputation and image can be tarnished in an instant, as now consumers have platforms to voice their opinions and experiences so openly. Cockroaches are definitely not good for your brand image, and the perception that downstream consumers have regarding this pest is very negative (and rightfully so).
Customers and end-users have become more educated on pest facts and it is not easy to pull the wool over their eyes anymore. Doing one's utmost to avoid negative publicity involves a host of contingency planning, and pest control is an essential part of this planning process.
5. Financial Implications:
Whilst having a pest management program might seem expensive, not having pest control measures can be even more expensive! Take for example the issues mentioned above; contamination concerns are amplified by a lack of pest control measures, and cleaning and disinfection become more costly due to repeat sightings and contamination.
Batches of product may also need to be discarded due to contamination by cockroaches or other pests. As products move from point A to point B without any control measures, the risk of contamination, infestation, and foodborne illnesses all increase, and with them the financial risks.
Implementing TQM procedures and quality inspections at each stage of manufacturing does come at a a cost, but it protects you and your customers downstream. Having a pest control inspection at each stage can be done internally, however, your teams must be trained to understand what to look for. Only then will be able to identify signs of a possible pest infestation and communicate that to your pest control provider more effectively. (Preferably Rentokil as we provide pest awareness training for you as a value-add, walking you and your teams through the details step by step).
Maintaining a good reputation with your customers and suppliers is a critical part of doing business. Your image is important, and should be important to your pest control provider. Once a negative word is spread, it's not easy to regain the confidence of downstream customers, especially if it is about something that could have an effect on health and safety.
In conclusion, any steps we take - or neglect to take - will have a financial impact on your business and the perception of your business. It's up to you and your pest control providers to ensure business longevity and to promote a higher standard of health and safety, so make sure you choose a reputable pest control provider to partner with you. Rentokil has a wide range of pest control services to suit your particular needs.