Pests that Threaten Food Manufacturing Facilities

One of the most challenging issue in health and safety complied with by every food manufacturing facility is pest management.

Insect evidence is a critical finding in any food manufacturing or distribution facilities. The conducive environmental conditions in food production areas stand the intrusion of unwanted organisms that can cause contamination of products.

Knowing the common pests in food production and their characteristics can greatly help in creating effective pest control programs to implement. Proactive prevention measures must be applied to avoid infestation, expensive damages and breakouts caused by these unwanted animals.

Here are some of the common pests in food manufacturing facilities:

  1. Cockroaches

Cockroaches are omnivores; they eat almost anything available to them. They have been reported to spread at least 33 kinds of bacteria, six kinds of parasitic worms, and at least seven other kinds of human pathogens. Due to their omnivorous nature and spiny legs, cockroaches can pick up germs and debris on their legs while crawling through sewage, then transfer that matter to food or food surfaces.

It is best to know which species you are fighting to know its breeding areas. You can determine the species by placing insect traps around the facility; be certain to map the traps so you can check and collect them all. You can then identify which species you have trapped and battle them accordingly.

  1. Flies

The common housefly is a known carrier of diseases and pathogens, including Listeria and even Salmonella. They feed on anything that they can process into liquid form through regurgitating its stomach contents.  Houseflies reproduce rapidly and carry over 100 different disease-causing germs.

Filth flies have been proven to spread more than 65 kinds of human diseases including E. coli, Staph and several kinds of food poisoning. Small filth flies include fruit flies, phorid flies and drain flies, and drains are a prime breeding area.

  1. Ants

Ants feed on processed foods, sugar, syrup, fruit juice, meat, eggs, oil and fat, dry pet food, dairy products and grease. Ants could contaminate food by accidentally being processed into the food product.

  1. Other insects

Other insects such as moths, beetles and other flying insects can feed on flour, cereals, dried pet foods, whole grains, oats, seeds, dried fruits, rice, grain meals, sugar, chocolate, drugs, pasta and tobacco. All stored product pests can damage food products during feeding. These pests can also contaminate food through body parts and cast skins. Many stored product pests hitchhike into grocery outlets and residential homes through infested flour and grains.



  1. Rodents

Rodents such as mice and rats are probably the most notorious pests threatening the food industry. It is important to control them because they damage food containers, contaminating food with rodent droppings and urine, and consuming food. Most rodents are nocturnal and reproduce rapidly, having 20 to 35 offspring per year.

Signs of rodent infestation include droppings, visual sightings, gnawing sounds, oil marks from their fur, tracks that can be seen

in dusty areas with flour, gnawing of insulation and wires and urine stains that are detectable under UV light.

  1. Birds

Birds can harbor and spread more than 60 diseases and dangerous bacteria through their droppings and feathers, contaminating food, creating air quality issues, and even causing lifelong respiratory ailments. For facilities manufacturing food products, contamination of food is an unacceptable public health risk, and the mere presence of birds could result in audit and inspection failures, shutdowns, and significant lost revenue. In areas with significant bird issues, droppings can even become a slip and fall hazard.

In addition, birds can cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in physical structure damage and resultant cleaning costs. Their droppings – unsightly, and sometimes odorous – are often corrosive and can eat away at building materials.


Regular cleaning and sanitizing is the best defense. Flying insect control requires removal of breeding sites, such as the roof puddles mentioned earlier, and food sources. Garbage is a prime source for both food and breeding sites; therefore, dumpsters must be placed away from open doors. All standing water should be eliminated from processing and distribution properties. Keeping flying insects from entering buildings is difficult but essential.

Screen doors work on standard doors, but not as well on dock doors. There are alternatives, such as air curtains and strip doors for dock doors. Air curtains are effective but must be monitored to be certain the airflow points outward, as I have seen many mistakenly pointing inward, sucking insects in. It is best to know your facility’s pest control program and always keep track of the documentation to preserve your company’s reputation.