Threshold Action Plan

Threshold Action Plans

By: John Moore, MSc

Threshold Action Plans (TAP) are one of the most important, (and required for food/feed) parts of an IPM program.  In simplest form, TAP are rules and specific actions that help the IPM provider, and the customer identify and mitigate pest risk before pest levels reach a point of economic loss or harm to the consumer. For example, a large flour mill or dog food manufacture  will never be at “zero” pests, which is unrealistic and impossible to achieve.  So, finding one Red Flour Beetle in a monitoring trap is not necessarily cause for alarm and the cost of corrective action may far exceed what is reasonable.  Neither of these two types of facility would have an action threshold of 1 pest.  However, they do need an Action Threshold that will tell them when pest levels in an area are approaching a point when further upward trending of pests will put them close to the point where economic losses and food safety may be at risk, and the cost of the corrective action could be significant.  Action threshold is the point at which pest populations or environmental conditions can no longer be tolerated necessitating that action be taken based on risk of economic, human health, aesthetic, or other loss. Action thresholds help determine both the need for control actions and the proper timing of such actions.  The Action is the predetermined plan of what to do when the threshold has been reached.

The two types of manufacturers mentioned above may be better served with a more realistic threshold of say 15 Red Four Beetle captured in a specific area before action is taken, or maybe not.  The most challenging part of putting together a TAP is trying to determine what that “action” number is.  Lots of trial and error is often required as each type of pest may have its’ own threshold number based on risk, history of this pest impacting the operation, time of year, etc.  However, once you have your TAP dialed in, it works very well.

Case in point:

A large milling operation spent some time in consultation with their IPM provider and produced a comprehensive TAP based upon known pest risks, history of particular pests that had significant impact on the facility, multiple years of trending data on the pests to determine time of year pest levels increased or decreased and where in the facility these fluctuations were noted.  They followed the TAP for 1 year.  For the first time in 3 years, the pest levels did not exceed the economic injury level saving them almost 100k in corrective action costs.  How you say?

By following the TAP, key areas of problems were identified, and action taken sooner.  This allowed for many smaller and less costly corrective actions that never allowed the pest levels to exceed the economic injury threshold requiring costly corrective actions.  The TAP told them what to do, where to do it, and when to do it.  This is preventative pest control at its finest.  Many of the smaller corrective actions were simply cleaning a piece of equipment differently, or at a different time of day. 

If you do not have a TAP for your facility, get one.  Your IPM provider should be able to help you develop one.  Without it, your IPM/food safety program cannot be as successful as it could be.