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Why Cockroaches Are a Problem

Whether talking about the cockroach’s ability to contaminate food, rapidly reproduce, spread disease, disturb customers, or cause inspection/audit citation, this small pest is of definite concern to food facility managers and executives. It is interesting to note, however, that potential cockroach problems appear to be of less concern in 2020 than they were in 2019 (Figure 7, page 5), but the majority of respondents (who could select more than one concern) still expressed unease about the presence of cockroaches in food plants. And that concern is warranted:

Contamination. Cockroaches will walk across and eat garbage as well as finished foods — and can carry and expel bacteria as they defecate and salivate on food, food-contact services, and packaging.

Reproduction. In ideal conditions, a single gravid female cockroach and her offspring can produce thousands of cockroaches in one year — and significantly more year over year thereafter.
Citation. A single cockroach sighted in a food area by a regulatory inspector or third-party auditor can result in a failure, particularly with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requiring that pest control be included as a preventive control, and be documented in the written Food Safety Plan. (See Figure 8 for changes respondents made due to FSMA requirements.)
Customer. A consumer or a downstream customer finding a cockroach in your product can significantly damage your brand reputation — especially in today’s world of social media where an incident and photo can be shared with thousands instantly.
Disease. In addition to the foodborne-disease bacteria that cockroaches can transmit in their feces and saliva, they can carry these pathogens — Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter — on their bodies contaminating surfaces by simply walking on them. ?

Do You “IPM”?

The term Integrated Pest Management (IPM) was introduced in 1967, formalized by the US National Academy of Sciences in 1969, and formulated into national policy in 1972. IPM started as an initiative for managing agricultural pests, and began to take root for the general and commercial pest control markets in the 1990s.

Despite its rich history and today’s predominance as a standard practice in the pest control industry, IPM is still evolving in the food industry, as nearly a quarter of the survey respondents either had not implemented IPM (11%) or did not know what it is (11%). Somewhat disturbingly, fewer 2020 respondents have implemented IPM than did 2019 respondents, and more do not know what it is (Figure 9). While these figures are somewhat supported by the 12% of those surveyed who responded that they take no action in cockroach prevention, there also is some evidence that those who do not know what IPM is are doing it without realizing it as 88% of respondents are implementing at least one method of prevention (Figure 10).

So what is IPM? As defined by the National Pest Management Association, IPM is “a process involving common sense and sound solutions for controlling pests. The focus is upon finding the best strategy for a pest problem, and not merely the simplest.” As such, it implements three aspects: inspection, identification, and treatment — with treatment focusing, first, on prevention and exclusion, then on chemicals when necessary.

Of the 28% of survey respondents who stated that they implemented exclusion methods:

98% sealed cracks and crevices.
90% instructed employees to keep doors closed.
83% installed door sweeps or air curtains.
78% cut back branches and shrubbery from buildings.
So if your facility, or a pest management professional, regularly inspects your facility for pests, identifies any that are found, and applies treatment, such as the methods above, you are likely implementing IPM — or are well on your way to doing so. ?