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We live in a world of movement. Both random and organized movements are a part of almost everything we do. Consider the movement of food products through the channels of production, processing, packaging, and distribution. It’s amazing how a complex series of movements can transform a plant in a field into a healthy, delicious entrée on a plate; often thousands of miles from its original source and sometimes never touched by human hands.

Movement also plays a critical role in food safety. As food moves through processing and distribution pathways, the risk of quality degradation or even destruction increases. The presence of pests like rodents or small flies in these pathways can be devastating. Let’s take a moment to explore the science of pest movement in food pathways and the important relationship to food safety. We call this science – Pest Kinetics.
Pest Kinetics is best understood using an outside-in approach with three distinct kinetic zones – Exterior, Barrier and Interior.


We start on the exterior of structures where insects and other pests move about their lives in search of food, water, and harborage. Most of these pests are not interested in our presence and processes; however, there are a few that actively move towards us with the intent of sharing resources and taking advantage of the conditions we create. Examples include commensal rodents (house mouse, Norway rat, roof rat), large flies (housefly, blow fly, flesh fly), some bird species, and some cockroaches. Protecting food pathways from these pests means minimizing conditions near our facilities that attract or allow them to live close to structures.

Top Prevention Methods Include:

● Managing vegetation and grounds around the facility.
● Managing water availability.
● Minimizing pest harborage sites– no stored items near structures, boneyards.
● Managing garbage and trash.


Keeping an intact barrier (walls, doors, roofs, etc.) around our food pathways is the next critical layer of protection from pests. There are some pests that actively try to penetrate physical barriers and others that unintentionally get inside, including stored product pests and small flies (fruit fly).

Top prevention methods include:

● Sealing doors and minimizing open time.
● Sealing holes, gaps, and pipe chases.
● Inspecting incoming goods for pests or pest activity.


The final pest kinetic zone is the interior. Pests which reach the interior have direct access to food and food products as they move through the environment and can live and reproduce inside. These pests can be extremely difficult to remove and can have a huge impact on food safety. Examples of interior breeding pests include stored product pests, commensal rodents, small flies (fruit fly, Phorid fly, moth fly), cockroaches (German cockroach, large cockroach species) and sometimes even birds.

Top Prevention Methods Include:

● Implementing good sanitation practices.
● Conducting regular inspections for pest activity and/or harborages, including in:

o Food containers and pallets.
o Non-food materials.
o Garbage and recycling traffic patterns.
o Rooftops.
o Items in long-term storage.



Whenever there are interior pest concerns, we should ask ourselves, “Could this pest issue have been prevented by focusing attention on the other kinetic zones?”

Thinking of pest prevention in terms of pest movement can bring a unique perspective to food safety. With a global food supply, there are many risks to assess and manage. Using the concepts of Pest Kinetics can elevate awareness of potential risks and provide solutions to mitigate and prevent pest issues, wherever food may be.

Ecolab is proud to support the Global Food Safety Initiative, and we look forward to joining attendees at the 2023 GFSI Conference in Atlanta. Visit Ecolab.com/GFSI to learn how we collaborate with our partners for people, planet and business health.

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