There is no question that cockroaches are a potential problem anywhere that food is produced. But just how prevalent are they in food and beverage processing facilities? What are the facilities doing to control cockroaches? What impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on pest control services in food facilities? Discover the challenges businesses are facing today, and the solutions they are implementing, in QA’s 2021 State of the Market: Cockroach Control in Food Facilities, sponsored by Zoëcon, derived from the responses to our January reader survey.
Although fewer than half of those surveyed responded that a cockroach had ever been seen in or around the food facility, 40% is still too many (Table 1). This is particularly true because, as explained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Cockroaches are primarily nocturnal. Daytime sightings may indicate potentially heavy infestations.” During the day, cockroaches tend to hide in cracks and crevices and can move freely from room to room (or adjoining units of multi-unit complexes) through wall spaces, plumbing, and other utility installations.
Of the 53 facilities at which cockroach(es) were seen, these were discovered:
This is unsurprising given that respondents believe the most common way that cockroaches enter food or beverage facilities is in or on employee belongings (Table 2), which would account for the cockroaches being discovered in employee breakrooms or kitchens and in or around employee lockers.
However, with 20% of respondents believing that cockroaches most commonly come in with deliveries, there seems to be a disconnect with only 4% of sightings noted as being on incoming goods. This could indicate that the cockroaches are getting into the facility quickly (as 13% saw cockroaches in and around pallets or storage areas) and that facilities should be better monitoring suppliers and their incoming goods prior to them being brought in and stored.
In addition to sightings, cockroaches are also being detected through a pest service provider’s report (69%), employee sighting log (60%), and monitors (38%) (Table 3). These responses correlate with the actions taken if a cockroach is seen in a food facility as 68% of respondents write up the sighting in a pest sighting logbook, and 63% contact a pest control technician. In no cases, according to respondents, would the cockroach sighting simply be ignored. (Table 4)
The species of greatest concern to respondents was the German cockroach (bottom chart).
Although 40% expressed no concern with any of the listed potential problems that cockroaches can cause in a food facility, the 60% who expressed concern, saw the most problematic as being disease spread (53%).
Just how concerned were they?...
The food industry faced a vast array of challenges in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including reduced workforces, increased focus on worker protections, a shift in consumer buying trends and related production changes, and limited accessibility for external service providers. With that, it could be expected that there would be a significant shift in regular pest control services. However, 79% of the survey respondents stated that the facilities in which they worked saw little to no impact on their pest control services during the pandemic.
Of the 21% that did see some impact on their pest control service:
Additionally, the vast majority of respondents (85%) continued to have the same type of pest control services at the same frequency in their facilities as in 2019, with only 10% reducing their services. In fact, 4% of respondents increased the frequency or type of service in 2020. (Table 5)
The greatest shift seems to have been a reduction in the frequency, as both the weekly and monthly service frequency rates shifted slightly downward during COVID while the quarterly, “as needed,” and no set schedule rates trended slightly upward.
To set the basis for how companies control pests in their facilities, the survey asked whether respondents’ facility services were conducted by an internal person or outsourced. The vast majority outsourced their services in full (63%) or in part (24%); only 11% used only internal employees to provide pest control. (Table 6) Although only a very small percentage (2%) stated that they had no pest control, this provokes questions as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) does mandate pest control as a preventive control and USDA includes pest control as a sanitation standard.
As shown in Tables 7-10, respondent facilities implemented the following control and/or preventive practices:
• Interior Control (Table 7). With 61% of respondents stating that some type of cockroach control is implemented within the facility, the most common methods were baits (34%) and traps (33%). It is somewhat concerning though that 25% had no interior control, as regardless of the suspected method of entry (Table 6), cockroaches can get into food facilities, shelter in hidden areas to breed, and emerge to contaminate food and food surfaces.
• Exterior Control (Table 8). Only 33% of respondents said that exterior cockroach control is implemented, with 27% implementing perimeter spraying and 25% utilizing baits. But with only 29% having responded that cockroaches were suspected to come in from the outside (Table 6), this correlates well, showing that it is likely those who suspect that cockroaches come in from outdoors as being those who implement controls in that area.
• Prevention (Table 9). While only 61% of respondents implemented interior controls against cockroaches (Table 7), a full 91% did implement preventive measures. The most common of these was regular inspections (74%), with insect monitoring (62%) the second most predominant method.
• Exclusion. Of those that implemented preventive measures in their facilities, 29% said that exclusion was a key factor of these. These include:
- 89%: Sealed cracks and gaps
- 87%: Instructed employees to keep doors closed
- 82%: Installed door sweeps or air doors
- 53%: Cut back branches and shrubbery from building
- 16%: Other
• IPM (Table 10). It is a positive sign that 68% of facilities reporting have implemented Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as it is recommended by pest control industry professionals, as well as many state and government publications. However, not only are 12% not implementing IPM, 12% do not even know what it is. If you, or any of your employees are among that 12%, there are a number of references that can provide more information and recommendations for its implementation. Following are a few from QA:
- Do You “IPM”?
- IPM: The Plan You Need to Stay in Business
- How to Ensure Your Facility Remains Pest-Free
- Regulations Surround Pest Management