Bakers Journal

Putting pests in their place

November 2, 2009
By Bill Melville

Too many cooks spoil the broth, but some occasions call for an extra cook in the kitchen.


Too many cooks spoil the broth, but some occasions call for an extra cook in the kitchen.

When it comes to pest management, engaging a trained professional could be the best option for your business. The food industry is under increasing pressure to maintain spotless facilities devoid of pests, but auditors and inspectors want to see evidence of proactive pest management programs that refuse pest entry, rather than a reliance on reactive treatments after they sneak in. Not to mention that pest activity will deflate your sanitation score and leave a bad taste in patrons’ mouths.

These days integrated pest management, or IPM, is the preferred method of managing pests around your delectable delights. Basically, IPM focuses on preventing pests by better managing the environment through non-chemical means. If chemicals are necessary, they are used as a last resort and only in targeted applications utilizing the least amount necessary.


IPM’s preventive approach is based on proactive sanitation and facility maintenance to eliminate pests’ access to their basic survival needs: food, water and shelter. This becomes more challenging in bakery facilities because those same elements are key to your business. Given the specialized knowledge required for IPM programs and the stringent sanitation standards in the food industry, many choose to outsource their pest management programs.

But what are the necessary ingredients in a pest management provider? Here are some key questions to ask, and tips on the qualifications needed, to ensure that outsourcing your IPM program is a recipe for success:

Read the label: certification
First and foremost, know what you’re adding to the mix. Make sure any pest-management provider you consider has licensed, certified and insured technicians, which is essential to comply with federal and provincial laws. You should keep a copy of your pest-management provider’s licenses, certifications and insurance certificates on file. Keep these in a central location along with other documentation such as pest sighting memos, corrective action reports and maps showing the location of all control equipment.

House specialty: training
Would you put a new chef in charge of preparing the most popular dish on the menu? Probably not; you should look for a top chef for your IPM program, too. Ask the pest-management provider what type of training or certification their technicians receive. Does the company offer regular training to keep technicians up-to-date on the latest technology and trends? Are they educated on local laws, and health department and auditor requirements? Proper pest identification is essential for effective treatment so you’ll also want to make sure the pest-management provider is trained in pest biology and behaviour. This means the technician can accurately identify pest species and growth stages.

Rave reviews: experience and service
To make sure he or she is worth their salt, ask how long the pest-management provider has been in business. What is their reputation? Word-of-mouth recommendations from others in your industry can direct you to a qualified professional. Ask if the provider specializes in commercial pest control and offers an IPM program tailored to the special needs of your facility, including adherence to IPM principles as defined by a recognized food industry association. Pest management in restaurants, baking facilities and food processing environments require a higher standard to ensure food safety.

Furthermore, experience with commercial facilities will help ensure your provider is comfortable with your facility’s standard operating procedures.
Finally, ask about what documentation is provided with the service. How soon is it available? You’ll also want to know how the provider addresses quality assurance, and what technical or back-up support the technician will have access to. For example, what kind of service guarantee is available? What is the average response time to a pest-related emergency? Is there an extra charge for such emergency responses?

The secret ingredient: staff engagement
IPM depends on open communication between you, your staff and your pest-management provider. When searching for |a pest-management provider, ask if they regularly communicate with your staff on sanitation and facility maintenance issues as part of the IPM program. Your employees should be the “eyes and ears” of your pest-management program on a day-to-day basis and the icing on top of a successful prevention strategy. Reputable providers will provide staff training so that your employees understand their role in the IPM process – helping them to see it as a piece of cake.

Taste test: Meeting with the short list
Based on your research, identify two or three companies from which to solicit proposals. Invite each provider on the “short list” to get the flavour of your facility before submitting a proposal. Identify specific pests that must be included in the contract and find out if additional charges apply when extra services or equipment are needed for a non-contracted pest. Discuss and agree upon the respective roles of the provider and of your facility in the IPM partnership. Make sure the proposal and service agreement outline these roles clearly. Finally, decide up front how – and how often – the provider’s services will be evaluated.

Successful IPM programs are based on strong partnerships. Finding the right ingredients in a pest-management professional, and following a clearly outlined recipe for prevention, will ensure that your relationship cooks up to perfection.

And a facility without pests? That’s the cherry on top.

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

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