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It doesn’t take much travel by car to see the rapid expansion of distribution infrastructure along roadways around populated areas. With record-breaking growth in distribution and logistics, food safety takes on a whole new meaning as supply chains are stretched, reconfigured, and disrupted. A network of distribution centers, cross-docks, warehouses, and fulfillment centers extend the global food-supply chain directly into local markets. When it comes to pest services, this expansion brings fresh challenges and a need for a mind-shift in service approaches.

The sheer size of many of these distribution structures (more than 100,000 square meters or more than 1 million square feet of floor space in some instances), can be daunting from a pest service standpoint. A pest infestation on the interior immediately takes on epic proportions when you don’t know where it begins or ends. As a pest service provider, it doesn’t take many roof rats in a distribution center to bring humility into your life. Identifying centers of pest activity and addressing root causes becomes critical. Preventing invasion and pursuing pests upstream to their introduction point often requires a different perspective than traditional pest control approaches. Distribution associates can help by congregating high-risk products and creating a zonal infrastructure where possible.

Automation systems also bring new challenges to pest service. Monitoring and responding to pests in a dark warehouse can be difficult, where access to large blocks of active inventory is extremely limited. Protecting these automation systems from invasion and being creative in methods to remove pest activity from within them, requires novel approaches. Fruit (vinegar) flies on a banana are one thing, in a 75,00 sq. meter automated produce warehouse, they can induce night sweats. Innovation such as remote monitoring and specialized trapping techniques may be required, but also require a new way of thinking. Working closely with the pest service provider to share operational and structural details of automated systems can greatly increase their ability to create strategic pest solutions.

Traditional placement of traps and monitors along the interior and exterior perimeter of structures may not provide adequate food protection in today’s distribution model. Increasingly, pests are transported into the center of large facilities on infested food products rather than crawling through doors. Time spent checking empty perimeter equipment is often better spent applying pest strategies away from the doors and walls. This is a different mindset for many in the pest industry. Sustained success requires a partnership between the pest service provider and distribution associates to create a holistic pest awareness approach.

The speed of product flow through these systems can also present challenges. It is often difficult to determine if a pest issue is transitory or established. Where the real issue lies along the distribution paths can be difficult to determine from a catch in a monitor. For example, a stored product pest in a monitor may leave critical questions unanswered, such as where along the supply chain is the real problem located, and where do corrective actions need to take place. The pest provider must not only think three dimensionally but may also need to ponder the pest space-time continuum along the entire distribution channel.

A simple mouse becomes a huge problem when it passes unseen into a large facility, has open access to the entire inventory, and goes undetected for large periods of time. This, coupled with a direct path downstream onto the consumer’s table, creates a food safety scenario that should cause an entire industry to pause and ask, “Are we where we need to be in this changing world?” Food protection along a growing and shifting supply chain can only be achieved through clear minds finding innovative solutions and a strong partnership with all parties involved. Even when moving at the speed of e-commerce, we must remain dedicated to the highest standards of food safety.

Ecolab is proud to partner with GFSI. Visit Ecolab.com/GFSI to learn how we support and collaborate with our partners for people, planet and business health.

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