Bakers Journal

Know your food safety ‘kneads’

November 22, 2011
By Bill Melville

A recent report by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency found that
Canadians remain confident in their country’s food safety system.

Cockroaches threaten food safety by carrying a number of organisms and bacteria that can cause food poisoning, diarrhea and dysentery.

A recent report by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency found that Canadians remain confident in their country’s food safety system. In fact, 68 per cent gave the system a favourable confidence rating. The report also found that Canadians acknowledge everyone has a role to play in food safety, including farmers, the foodservice industry, the government and consumers. However, when it comes to food safety at your bakery, you are the one responsible for providing your customers with safe food products.

Foodborne illnesses result from eating food contaminated by pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, parasites or viruses. Because pests are able to carry a number of these pathogens, which can contaminate your food and threaten the safety of your customers, effective pest management is an important part of the fight against food poisoning. The most effective method for helping prevent pests at your bakery is to implement an integrated pest management (IPM) program.


Instead of relying on reactive measures to control pests, which often use chemical treatments, IPM focuses on proactive measures to help prevent pests. It relies on a combination of common-sense practices – primarily sanitation and facility maintenance – and is the most economical means of pest management, as it uses chemicals only as a last resort, making it the least hazardous method for people, property and the environment.

You can start by knowing your pest management “KNEADs.” Here are a few tips to help you reduce pests and limit the chances of foodborne illnesses at your bakery.

Know the key pests
Work with your pest control provider to identify specific pests that are a threat to your bakery and ways to proactively protect against them. Common pests such as flies, rodents and cockroaches are generally associated with jeopardizing the safety of the food you serve.

Flies transmit more than 100 known pathogens, including E. coli, salmonella, staphylococcus and shingles. Flies leave behind bacteria every time they land, threatening food safety.

Rodents carry salmonella bacteria in their intestinal tracts, and can contaminate food through bacteria passed in their droppings or urine.

Cockroaches threaten food safety by carrying a number of organisms and bacteria that can cause food poisoning, diarrhea and dysentery. Roaches typically contract these diseases by walking into contaminated environments and then spreading them to other areas.

Never ignore a pest problem
The main pest management responsibility of your staff is to serve as the eyes and ears of your program. Ask employees to regularly monitor for signs of pests and immediately report any pest sightings, or evidence of pest activity. Never ignore the signs of pest presence, which can include gnaw marks, droppings or insect eggs, larvae, trails, webbing and cask skins. Arm your staff with the knowledge they need to keep an eye out for intruders by asking your pest management professional to provide you with educational materials that you can share with staff. The faster you contact your pest management professional, the quicker you can prevent a problem from escalating, should your staff see signs of pest activity. 

Enact a written sanitation program
While it seems like common sense, it is important to create, implement and maintain a written sanitation program at your facility. A sanitation program must encompass daily, weekly, monthly and yearly steps. Cleanliness is crucial, especially in the areas where food is prepared. Pests are attracted to food or water sources, so it is important to clean up spills immediately, even if they are small, as pests do not need much to survive. Consider using organic cleaners made with naturally occurring bacteria and enzymes, as they eliminate the grease and grime pests can feed on and breed in.

Annual cleaning is crucial
While daily cleaning is important, you should also consider a “deep clean” at least twice a year to reach more difficult problem areas. Here are a few tips to help you identify and clean more difficult spaces:

  • Thoroughly clean all equipment, particularly in joints and around nuts and bolts, which can be easily overlooked. Dust, grime and food particles can collect in these spaces and attract pests.
  • Remove any floor drains and scrub them with an organic cleaner to remove debris that can act as a breeding ground for small flies. If necessary, have an outside company do a deep cleaning of the pipes. Afterward, regular use of an organic cleaner will help keep debris from collecting deep in pipes.
  • Use a steam cleaner to remove stubborn residue on machinery and floors.
  • If appropriate, pressure wash the building exterior and sidewalks. Pay close attention to bird droppings, which may carry harmful bacteria. Use appropriate personal protective equipment and precautions when removing droppings.

Dial a professional
Taking a proactive step toward sanitation will allow you to focus on the job at hand rather than worrying about the threat of pests. You should also work with your pest management professional to incorporate a specific plan for your business. For example, during cooler months, rodents pose a threat as they migrate into warm buildings to maintain their body temperature. By working with your pest management professional to look for potential pest pressures, you can help ensure that pests stay out of your business.

For your customers, foodborne illness can lead to sudden and violent sickness, even death. For your business, it can mean a loss of customers and a damaged reputation, a fine from regulatory agencies, or even being shut down. So protect your customers and your reputation by working with your pest management professional to implement an IPM program. By knowing your pest control “KNEADs,” you can reduce pests in your bakery and ultimately reduce the risks associated with foodborne illnesses.

Bill Melville is quality assurance director for Orkin PCO Services.  Mr. Melville has 35 years of experience in the industry and is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. For more information, e-mail Bill Melville at or visit

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