Food Processing Pest Guide: Cockroaches

Columns - Practical Pest Protection

October 12, 2020

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Cockroaches are one of the most difficult pests to eradicate, and are, unfortunately, no stranger to food processing facilities. With ample food sources and abundant shelter, a small infestation can quickly turn into a nightmare, threatening the health and safety of those who work in the facility and those who consume its products. To prevent an infestation, food processing facility managers must know the signs to look out for and the steps to take should one be suspected in their facility.

German cockroaches are the most common cockroach species found around the world and are known for being attracted to warm, humid places near food sources. This species of cockroach also can reproduce at a rapid rate of up to six generations per year. So if an infestation is allowed to take hold, it can quickly get out of hand. While German cockroaches are the most commonly found species, American, Oriental, and brown-banded cockroaches also are attracted to the conditions that food facilities provide. Thus, proper identification by a pest control professional is paramount to eradication.

In addition to being a nuisance, cockroaches pose serious health risks to humans. If they contact any food processing equipment or goods, they can transmit 33 kinds of bacteria, including E. coli and Salmonella; six kinds of parasitic worms; and seven other kinds of human pathogens. Additionally, their saliva, droppings, and decomposing body parts contain proteins that can trigger allergies and increase the severity of asthma symptoms.

To protect your facility and product, managers and employees need to be vigilant in spotting the telltale signs of a cockroach infestation. Aside from spotting an actual cockroach, another sign is droppings, especially in dim areas where these pests are likely to hide. But because the droppings of certain cockroach species resemble those of rodents, it is important to work with a licensed pest control professional for proper identification.

Cockroach eggs are also a sign of an infestation and may be found stuck to furniture or appliances near food sources or in moist, dark areas. Musty odors also have been reported in cockroach infestations, so be alert for any unusual odors as this could signify a larger problem is brewing within the facility.

Because cockroaches are attracted to dark, damp areas close to food sources, cutting off their access is crucial to ensuring your facility remains pest-free. To do this, it is recommended that facility managers:

  • Seal any cracks or holes on the outside of the building using an appropriate sealant, paying close attention to points where utilities and pipes enter.
  • Properly ventilate storage areas and machinery to prevent moisture buildup.
  • Keep food products sealed and stored properly in air-tight containers.
  • Clean high-volume areas often, including employee break rooms, bathrooms, and lobby areas where crumbs and trash accumulate daily.
  • Dispose of garbage regularly and store it in sealed receptacles placed at a distance from any building entrances.

Cockroaches are nimble pests that will adapt to survive. While following the steps above can help reduce the likelihood of an infestation, it is important to work with a licensed pest control company to perform regular pest inspections as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) plan designed specifically for your facility’s location and needs. Using a three-part practice of inspection, identification, and treatment, pest professionals will assess the facility and pinpoint and address any problem areas — to help protect your employees, facility, and products from the threats that cockroaches pose to public health.

Cindy Mannes Vice President of Public Affairs, National Pest Management Association