Food safety professionals play a critical role in ensuring that our food supply is free from harmful contaminants, including pests. However, climate change is having an impact on pest control strategies. Rising temperatures, longer seasons and changing weather patterns create more favorable conditions for pests to thrive in many areas, leading to an increased risk of infestations in crops and food processing and storage facilities. Additionally, extreme weather events such as floods and droughts can disrupt pest control efforts and create enhanced breeding grounds for pests.
As a result, food safety professionals must be vigilant and adaptable, continually monitoring and adjusting their pest control plans to account for the evolving challenges posed by climate change. Read on to find out how these pest pressures can affect food safety in your facility and what you can do to help prevent them.
Three Ways Climate Change Can Affect Environmental Pest Pressures
Climate fluctuations are affecting insects by altering life cycles and behaviors, leading to changes in population size and ecosystems.
Below are three main ways that climate fluctuations are affecting pest populations:
- Expanding Pest Territories. Most insects are ectotherms, which means they can’t regulate their body temperature. Geographies that were previously cool enough that they kept certain insects out are warming up, which could allow invasive species to thrive and native insects to expand their territories.
- Altering Breeding Seasons. As seasons get warmer, some species of insects can increase the number of generations they produce each year, which can lead to more pest pressures for food processing and storage facilities.
- Increased fertility. While some pests might display an increase in the number of generations they produce in a warmer climate, others may demonstrate an increase in population numbers by increasing the number of offspring per generation
Protecting Your Facility Against Increased Pest Pressures
The above trends mean more pests in certain geographic areas – including more species and/or increased populations of existing species. If you rely on the same Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies you have had in previous years, you may have challenges with the “new” pest pressures in your food processing facility. IPM is a dynamic program, so adapting to climate change is important to help prevent contamination, maintain compliance with food safety regulations, protect brand reputation and ensure the safety and quality of the food products. Below are some helpful tips on what you can do to protect your facility from pest pressures:
- Sanitation Practices. Sanitation should be top of mind at your facility. To ensure food safety, frequent cleaning and proper waste disposal is important to remove any food sources pests may be attracted to.
- Exclusion Methods. Exclusion includes sealing all entry points like cracks and crevices that pests may be able to gain access in to your facility to help prevent future infestations.
- IPM Program. Partner with a trusted pest control provider to develop a customized IPM program for your facility that includes routine inspections, ongoing monitoring and treatment, as well as employee education and training to help identify and report pest activity.
- Data Collection. Use your pest management data to help you see trends that are being impacted by climate change in real time.
By using the tips above, food safety professionals can help ensure the safety and quality of their products while protecting their facilities from pest pressures. For more information on potential pest threats for food safety, attend the GFSI speaking session: “Threats to Food Safety and Quality: How to be Agile and Resilient in the Face of Non-Conformities” on April 26 at 2 p.m.