Pest Management Assessments

Pest Management Assessments

Paul Gough, ACE

Corporate IPM Manager

I recently attended a seminar where APM, or Assessment-Based Pest Management, was discussed. The term is attributed to Dr. Dini Miller, Professor of Urban Pest Management at Virginia Tech. The context was German roaches, and the idea is that we should assess the level of infestation in determining a treatment plan. For example, numeric thresholds can be set to trigger a predetermined level of treatment unit-by-unit in multi-unit housing. The result is a data driven, focused, and more cost-effective program. I was impressed that this concept has reached into residential pest management; clearly APM is here to stay!

Food safety programs have been incorporating assessment requirements for many years, and food safety audit standards have adapted to allow assessment-based device placement. But in this context, what does “assessment” actually mean? What is it for, when should it be done, and what should it entail?

The purpose of a food safety pest management assessment is to evaluate what combination of Integrated Pest Management and internal programs will best support pest-related food safety, and in an ongoing program a regular assessment evaluates whether the program is effective or if changes are needed. Assessments are an excellent best practice in creating a pest management program and ensuring continuous improvement toward improved food safety and compliance with audit and regulatory requirements. 

An assessment should be performed prior to implementing an IPM program and then at minimum annually. The assessment should be revisited when there are changes to the building (construction) or processes (new products or production methods) that trigger reevaluation of pest risk, or when there is a significant pest issue. Most food safety audit schemes either specifically call for assessments or refer to them obliquely by requiring measurement of program effectiveness.

A food safety pest management assessment should accomplish the following:

  • Identify pest activity and pest related risks that pose a hazard to food (and employee) safety
  • Address identified activity and risk directly by creating an Integrated Pest Management program that
    1. Identifies target pests and high-risk areas
    2. Establishes appropriate monitoring device types, placement strategy and inspection frequencies
    3. Creates a threshold-based corrective action plan
  • Recommend internal actions and programs that can be implemented by the facility to minimize activity and risk

In addition to a physical inspection to evaluate risk, assessment of an ongoing program should incorporate a meeting with facility management and a (documented) review of:

  • Assessment inspection findings
  • Pest activity and trends since the last assessment
  • Corrective actions implemented and their effectiveness
  • Upcoming changes to the facility and/or processes and associated pest risks
  • Potential changes and improvements to the program, including new approaches, technology, and potential treatment options
  • Program requirements, any expected changes (such as new certifications, policies, or audit schemes) and how they are or will be met by the program

The format of an assessment is a matter of preference but should allow for site specific narrative so as to clearly and concisely communicate findings and recommendations.