A Closer Look: GMP Findings from the Philippines

In a country like the Philippines where agriculture plays a crucial role in the economy, protecting food plants from pest infestations is of paramount importance. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) offers a sustainable and environmentally friendly solution to combat pest problems in food plants. This blog aims to delve into the concept of IPM, shed light on its significance, and explore how it can effectively safeguard food plants in the Philippines.

What is Integrated Pest Management?

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach that focuses on preventing and managing pest problems by combining various tactics. Instead of relying solely on pesticides, IPM utilizes a holistic and proactive strategy that emphasizes regular monitoring, proper sanitation, and targeted use of pesticides when needed. IPM is a systematic plan that brings different pest control tactics together into one program. “Integrated” means that the plan considers the interactions of pests, the environment, and various control methods. “Pest” is an organism that conflicts with the health and sanitary hygiene of an operation. Finally, “Management” uses tactics to eliminate conditions that promote or sustain pest populations. Integrated Pest Management improves the effectiveness of programs while reducing the negative effects.

Some examples of pest infestations that we have reported during our GMP Inspections in the Philippines include:

  • Birds nesting and roosting on and in exterior structures immediately next to food plants near doors, and birds gaining access to interiors through wall holes and gaps or open doors. The presence of birds in and around a food operation results in a significant microbiological risk since birds carry pathogens.
  • Roof rat and mouse activity as indicated by the presence of droppings and gnawing on food packaging are also reported in this country. These animals also carry pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, so their presence inside food operations poses a great risk to food safety.
  • Insect activity that is reported includes ants, filth flies, such as houseflies and drain flies, American and German cockroaches, and stored product insect beetles. These types of findings point to lack of sanitation that allows the attraction and/or development of these insects. The presence of these insects inside a facility spreads pathogens to foods and food contact surfaces creating significant food safety risks.

10 Steps to Establish an Effective IPM Program

To establish an effective IPM program, it is necessary for a person trained in IPM and pest biology to assess the facility.

  1. The assessment should evaluate all areas inside and outside the facility, including:
    • pest sighting reports and trends
    • detection and identification of pest species present, including the extent and distribution of their presence
    • the environment that could help their harborage and proliferation
    • previously applied corrective actions and their effectiveness
    • additional corrective actions, as needed.
    The assessment should also take into consideration the external environmental factors of the facility. These include climate and the location setting, such as urban or rural. Additional considerations are the type of product being manufactured and how this affects pest activity. The condition of the facility, whether new or old, may contribute to pest issues if not properly maintained. The results of the assessment should be used to establish the IPM program and the parameters needed to manage the identified pest risks at the site. This includes the installation of pest monitoring devices, such as exterior bait stations and interior mouse traps, rat traps (if necessary), insect light traps, pheromone traps, etc. and the frequency for monitoring these devices.
  2. Successful IPM requires the help and full support of the Maintenance, Sanitation, Operations, Warehouse and Quality departments and a strong cooperation and communication line to the IPM provider, whether contracted or an employee of the company. If any link in the chain is compromised, the program will not succeed, and the result will be the presence of pests inside a food facility.
  3. The first line of defense relies on maintaining the exterior grounds to prevent pest attraction to the building and removing pest harborage sites:
    • Remove idle equipment, standing water, and enclose structures that allow pests to harbor next to the building.
    • Make sure that trash collection equipment is kept closed, emptied when full, and that the grounds surrounding the equipment is cleaned often to eliminate spillage that could attract pests.
    • If neighboring sites are contributing to pest attraction, work with them whenever possible to prevent compromise to your operation.
  4. Maintaining barrier controls to prevent pest entry is the next line of defense. Doors should be kept closed when not in use and have tight seals to prevent pest entry. Mice can enter a hole as small as ¼ inch or 0.63 cm. Any windows or other ventilation equipment should be provided with insect-proof screens. All walls, ceiling/wall junctions, and floor/wall junctions should be maintained with no gaps or holes to the exterior to prevent entry by insects, birds, and rodents. Additionally, walls, ceilings, and floors must be free of holds and voids that could offer pest harborage potential. This means that building structures must be monitored and maintained to support the IPM program.
  5. Stock rotation in the warehouse is essential when handling grain-based materials, spices or any other materials that can support stored product insect development. Aged materials stored in ambient conditions may allow insect eggs that have survived processing to hatch and grow.
  6. Effective sanitation for equipment and structures is critical to ensure that filth insects, such as drain flies, houseflies, and cockroaches have no putrid food sources in which to develop. Deep cleaning of equipment and structures is also needed to prevent stored product insect development in stagnant accumulations of grain-based materials and spices.
  7. The use of pesticides should be limited to circumstances where that is the only way to regain control of a pest population. Household pesticides should never be used in a food plant. Only pesticides labeled for use in a food plant should be used and applications must comply with the label directions. The use of pesticides must be managed under the chemical control program to ensure food safety protocols are maintained.
  8. Everyone needs to understand their role in IPM. Employees should be educated on why doors must be kept closed, why sanitation is important to IPM, and encouraged to report any pest sighting immediately to management to ensure that the pest can be eliminated before it compromises food safety.
  9. The Self-Inspection Team should include inspections for site conditions that may contribute to pest activity and implement needed corrective measures to eliminate the identified concerns. Additionally, these inspections can be used to determine the effectiveness of the IPM program. This requires a basic understanding of pest biology and the conditions that contribute to pest development and harborage.
  10. When working with an outside IPM provider, it is essential that a designated person at the site maintains communication with the technician regarding any issues that are identified. This should include routine reviews of the pest trends in the facility. Even though services may be contracted through a provider, ultimately the responsibility of the IPM program rests with site management. It is important that this ownership of site conditions be understood by all site personnel.

In Conclusion

IPM requires the following to be effective:

  • A thorough assessment of historical and current conditions that impact pest activity
  • A written program to address all services that will be completed for inspecting, monitoring, and treating to manage pest activity
  • Education of all site personnel regarding their responsibilities that support the IPM program
  • A commitment by site management to ensure that budgets for sanitation and repairs are available to support the IPM program
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