The COVID-19 crisis has presented the greatest challenge for the food industry in decades. Few sectors have been as badly hit. Restrictions caused by the pandemic have limited production and caused delays in the transportation of goods. Such delays have resulted in extended storage, which, in turn, has affected the quality of products.
Elsewhere, the pandemic has significantly affected the food service industry. Many pubs and restaurants have been forced to close while others continue to operate at less-than-full capacity, forcing many to expand their click and collect and delivery options.
Outbreaks in manufacturing plants continue across the globe despite the considerable effort and investment that has gone into safeguarding workers. The shutdown of these plants as well as changing consumer behaviours and price increases, have altered food supply chains for the long-term.
As businesses continue to struggle with the fallout, pest infestations have thrived. With integrated pest management, businesses can control pests efficiently and discreetly to protect their premises, stock, equipment and provide a safe place for staff.
According to internal data collected by Rentokil during 2020, the food industry alone reported 4.2 million infested locations to us before the year was out – that’s an increase of over 5% from 2019.
Rodents: The Biggest Lockdown Pest Threat
Pests can damage many parts of buildings to gain access and scout properties to find food and nesting places. They will inevitably damage those buildings, in addition to stock and equipment, disrupt operations, contaminate surfaces, hit revenue and threaten health, safety and compliance.
Arguably, the biggest troublemakers are rodents. They carry diseases, damage the fabric of buildings and gnaw electrical wires and cables. They also breed quickly. Worse still, rodent infestations are on the rise, with Rentokil observing a 12.4%* increase in infestations year-on-year globally. Regions have been affected in the following ways:
- In Asia, the Republic of Korea saw a year-on-year increase of 25%.
- In Europe, the rise across the region was 10.9%, while, at country level, the Czech Republic saw an increase of 49%.
- In Latin America, Mexico showed the biggest increase at 48%.
- In North America, Canada witnessed a rise of 30% and the US a rise of 15%.
- In the Middle East, the UAE had the greatest increase at 32%.
It’s clear that many businesses and organisations are under great pressure – not least across the food supply system. Lockdowns and restrictions to try and stop the spread of COVID-19 and new variants have led to shutdowns, closures and supply disruptions from food packaging to processing and retail.
Even before COVID-19, businesses were already facing real challenges from pests. Internal data collected by Rentokil during 2018 highlighted how rodents infiltrated businesses from the food manufacturing industry. In Australia and the UK, unblocked holes were the major cause of rodent infestations, with 63% of recommendations attributed to blocking holes. Meanwhile, on a global scale, also in 2018:
- 25% of food manufacturing customers had infestations due to structural issues;
- 44% were directly related to entry points.
Keep Your Fingers on the Pulse
With COVID-19 prevalent in most parts of the world, businesses are facing increasingly heightened concerns about the safety of their employees and customers, food production, processing and distribution.
The last thing any business needs is trouble from one of the few things thriving from the pandemic. When it comes to pests, however, it costs significantly more to clean up an infestation than employing proactive pest management.
‘In the current climate, digital pest management provides the ideal solution for organisations and allows pin-point accuracy for locating sources of potential infestations with minimum contact or disruption to business operations,’ said Paul Donegan, Rentokil Initial’s Group Digital Innovation Director.
‘By going digital, businesses can use the data to see where the pest hotspots are on a site. This will help them to mitigate any risks to their business,’ explains Donegan. ‘Big data analytics can be used to build a picture of patterns and emerging trends. Using this knowledge can help businesses forecast and better prepare for the future.’
The Ultimate Tailored Approach to Pest Control
Traditional pest control has always reacted to pest infestations once they have become established and will therefore only eliminate pests once they have become a problem. Integrated pest management (IPM) is an alternative and more effective approach to pest control. It focuses on targeted prevention measures rather than a reactive approach and allows food businesses to:
- take a holistic approach to tackle all pests that threaten their operations;
- detect potential pest problems early and reduce the risk and cost of a serious pest infestation;
- identify pests and monitor pest trends to determine the right treatments;
- minimise disruption to daily operations;
- avoid introducing new pests into their premises;
- benefit from solutions tailored to their needs;
- reduce environmental risk, such as contamination or pollution, by providing non-toxic pest-control solutions.
The Business of Sustainability
Integrated pest management is the foundation of sustainable pest control. By focusing on proactive measures such as digital technology to prevent pest infestations, IPM uses non-toxic solutions, fewer resources – including energy and plastic – and is safer for the environment.
At the start of 2020, one of the biggest worries for businesses was the impact climate change would have on food production until COVID-19 muscled its way in and changed everything.
Something COVID-19 and pests have in common is their ability to affect food supply chains, and food losses are a significant contribution to CO2 emissions. The sustainability commitments of your business can be bolstered with tried-and-trusted integrated pest management to prevent pest infestations – one of the reasons for food losses – in an environmentally sustainable way.
What Happens Next?
Nobody saw the challenges of 2020 coming and nobody in the food industry escaped the extensive disruption caused by lockdowns, COVID infection rates, erratic supply requirements and social disruption.
Join our roundtable discussion at the GFSI Conference on Tuesday 23rd March to understand:
- the real facts behind the increase of pests;
- how insights, proprietary data and new technology is making a real difference for businesses in mitigating pest activity;
- how advanced, sustainable IPM developed with scientific expertise has helped businesses around the world to mitigate risk in the most challenging of times and will continue to do so in the uncertain times to come.
This blog was written and contributed by: