Let’s face it. There are certain things no baker really wants to talk about. Rodents — or bugs, roaches or critters at all for that matter — top the list. But the reality is that pest management is essential to a bakery’s safe food practices. While every bakery operation should have a pest-management system in place, it is important to annually ­assess that system to ensure risks are kept to a minimum.

Stephanie Lopez, vice-president of food safety education for AIB International, Manhattan, KS, oversees face-to-face and online food safety and food defense training around the globe. At AIB, she has held roles of food safety auditor, HACCP coordinator and director of food safety education. In this exclusive Q&A with Baking & Snack, Ms. Lopez discusses the benefits of annually assessing a bakery’s pest management system. For more information on this and many other facility issues, visit www.aibonline.org.

Baking & Snack: What is the goal of an annual integrated pest management (IPM) assessment?

Stephanie Lopez: The goal of the IPM assessment program is to provide an in-depth review of the food manufacturing or food storage facility to determine if the current practices properly ­address threats posed by pest issues. The assessment encompasses the entire facility and proper use of supportive prerequisite programs to minimize the impact a pest may have on a facility and its products. It is a combination of an intensive facility and documentation review to gain an understanding of the current status of the IPM program.

How many internal rodent monitoring devices are needed and where?

A well-done facility assessment will identify areas of potential rodent ­activity. Areas where materials are brought in from the outside and placed in the raw material warehouse or other frequently opened storage areas at ground level and with roll-up doors or pedestrian doors are typically the most vulnerable. Evidence of mice during the facility assessment would indicate a need for a heavier concentration of trapping devices. The absence of any evidence would indicate a need to strategically place devices in locations most likely to intercept a rodent that may gain entry.

Typically, when there is no historical documentation on which to base the level of rodent activity, interior devices would be placed at 20- to 40-ft intervals until sufficient data has been collected to determine the facility’s actual needs. Should activity occur, the number of traps would likely increase dramatically until the issue has been resolved. When all activity has been eliminated, traps would be returned to the monitoring levels initially established.

A word of caution here: Most monitoring programs take for granted that mice are the only rodent likely to enter a facility and that they will remain on the floor level and run along the exterior walls. The assessment must consider the likelihood of rats being part of the potential for rodent activity and respond accordingly. Mice do not always run along perimeter walls; they can occupy a facility in a three-dimensional way, so your assessment activities and control strategies must include these possibilities.

What types of exterior rodent monitoring devices should be used?

Exterior rodent monitoring can include the use of mechanical rodent devices and/or bait stations. The facility assessment will determine the type of device used. In the case of bait stations, bakers should ­follow the label instructions. There have been changes to labels in many countries that restrict where baits can be placed and used.

Additional areas that need to be considered as part of the assessment are roof locations and other on-site structures. The facility assessment and historical data should be used to determine spacing for devices. If there is no historical data to draw from, a spacing of 50 to 100 ft is suggested until enough data can be collected and evaluated to determine appropriate device placement. There may also be times when additional trap placements or a decrease in the device distances would be warranted based on activity.

How is pest management interrelated to other prerequisite programs?

The success of any IPM program directly depends on the proper application of supportive prerequisite programs in a facility. The absence of a viable building maintenance program can lead to access points and harborages for rodents. A failed sanitation program provides opportunity for out-of-control insect and rodent issues to develop. Improper stock rotation and inventory management set the stage for pest issues in any plant.

Education and self-inspection programs are essential to the success of any IPM program. Without the awareness of pest potential and the ability to recognize pest presence, the program will fail and ultimately result in costly corrective action.