Bakers Journal

Guest Column: December 2013

November 21, 2013
By Alice Sinia

Is your supply chain protected against foodborne illnesses spread by pests?

Is your supply chain protected against foodborne illnesses spread by pests?

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there is an estimated four million cases of foodborne illness in the country each year. This means roughly one in eight Canadians annually is subjected to preventable illnesses that in severe cases can be fatal. Pathogens, allergens and irritants that spread to food by pests such as flies, rodents and cockroaches are typically the causes of foodborne illnesses. For those along the supply chain, a contaminated food product can mean loss of revenue, a damaged reputation and potential disciplinary action from regulatory agencies.

Pests can cause your business more than a headache:

  • Flies transmit more than 100 known pathogens, including escherichia coli (E. coli), salmonella, staphylococcus, clostridium, bacillus and shingles. Flies leave behind pathogens every time they touch a surface and are a major threat to food safety.
  • Rodents transmit pathogens such as salmonella and irritants through their droppings, urine and other body fluids such as saliva when they contaminate food, food utensils and prep surfaces.
  • Cockroaches have filthy habits and carry a number of pathogens on their bodies.
  • Body parts, hairs, fragments, allergens, and other irritants from a pest also can physically contaminate food. Such contaminants are not only unpleasant but can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, and emotional and psychological distress in some individuals.

Proactive pest management is an important part of ensuring that pathogens and other pest-related contaminants stay out of food products. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program is the most effective and environmentally friendly approach to preventing pest issues. IPM employs sanitation and facility maintenance processes to eliminate the potential for pest issues. The goal of this approach is to restrict pests’ access to the three elements they need to survive – food, water and shelter. An IPM approach uses least toxic and environmentally friendly treatment methods to protect your customers and reduce the risk of food contamination.

It is the responsibility of everyone involved in the process to make sure shipments are pest-free. If you receive a shipment with signs or evidence of pest activity such as webbing, live or dead insects/pests, droppings, and gnawing, quarantine the shipment, follow internal company communication and corrective action procedures and alert your supplier immediately. Do your part to maintain a pest-free supply chain by following these tips:

  • Inspect all incoming products. Follow good storage practices by keeping all inventory labelled and dated.
  • Store products off the floor on racks or shelves; install 18-inch painted product free-space along wall perimeter and between aisles to allow for pest monitoring, inspections and housekeeping and to help prevent products from serving as breeding spots for pests.
  • Rotate products frequently; apply first-in, first-out (FIFO) principle when using stored products; and clean spills promptly.
  • Sanitize all surfaces before placing food on them, and implement a deep-cleaning schedule to thoroughly clean hard-to-reach spaces, such as behind and under equipment.
  • Cleanliness is crucial at every step of the food supply chain and even more so at the preparation stage. As is the case throughout the supply chain, bakeries should inspect incoming products for signs of pests, properly store them, implement vigorous housekeeping and sanitation measures, and work with a pest management provider to set up an IPM program that fits the facility’s specific needs.
  • Finally, it is important that all partners properly document their pest management programs. Your pest management provider should equip you with service reports, pesticide usage logs, labels and material safety data sheets for all products used on-hand. As far as a health inspector or auditor is concerned, if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen.
  • Partnering with your pest management professional and implementing an IPM program is the most effective way to reduce the potential for foodborne illnesses and limit the risks that come with contaminated product. Secure your supply chain so you can focus on moving your product, and not on pests.

Alice Sinia, PhD is Quality Assurance Manager – Regulatory/Lab Services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 10 years of experience, she manages the Quality Assurance Laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. For more information, e-mail Alice Sinia at or visit .

Print this page


Stories continue below