Pest Control

Pests can contaminate food and transmit severe diseases like Histoplasmosis, which can be a fatal respiratory disease from a fungus growing in dried bird droppings. When pests appear in a food processing plant, infestation can occur in a short period of time if not dealt with immediately. Pest control refers to the reduction or elimination of pests including flies, cockroaches, mice, rats, birds and other insects. Safe, effective, pest control should be a priority in a food processing plant. With a pest control program in place, you can protect your plant from shutdowns and recalls. You can also ensure that the safest possible food is being produced in your plant. Effective pest control requires proper cleaning and sanitation procedures in the food plant.  

Pests should not be ignored or taken lightly.  If they are found in a food processing plant, adequate measures must be taken immediately.  It is important to consider all conditions that can allow pests to enter your facility and help pests survive.  For instance, if insects are found in a food storage room, the following actions can be applied: inspect incoming food for insect evidence before storage, store food off the floor, keep the room clean and inspect regularly for insects.

Pest Management Programs

Pest management programs need more than traditional spraying techniques to eliminate pests. Modern pest management programs are designed to allow pest prevention as well as control. 

An effective pest management program in a food plant should include: 

  • early detection of pests through monitoring to see if threshold levels have been reached and controls have been effective (thresholds are the levels of pest populations at which action must be taken to prevent unacceptable damage)
  • routine inspection for detection focused on areas where pest are most likely to occur (ex: receiving docks, storage areas, employee break rooms, lockers and potential entry points)
  • identification of the pests to set elimination targets
  • treatments that do not pose a risk to employees or the environment
  • analysis of possible factors that may attract pests (ex: food residue, lack of cleaning)
  • recording pest control monitoring activities to measure efficiency of pest control in case of an audit and to determine areas that need more attention
  • communication and co-operation between staff and pest control providers, employees should report any signs of pests (designated employees should be in charge of pest control communication with the pest control provider) 

There are several methods of pest control, some of the most common include:


1) Chemical Pest Control


Chemical pest control consists of the use of pesticides and baits. Chemicals used in pest control must not contaminate the food, ingredients or packaging. Pesticide use is particularly critical in places where food is handled, produced, packaged and stored. Food processors frequently contract a licensed pest management provider (PMP) to apply pesticides.

Any chemicals used for pest control must be accepted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). An approved list can be found under the pesticide section. The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is the agency within Health Canada that ensures safety of the public and environment by regulating pest products in Canada. The Pest Control Products Act (PDF 549 KB) is the current Canadian pesticides regulation. All chemicals used for pest control should be properly stored in designated areas and properly labeled. 

2) Greener Alternatives 

Monitoring before treatment helps identify pests and allows targeted pesticide application to specific areas. New techniques are currently used in pest control programs to help reduce the use of chemical pesticides. They may provide even better results for pest control. Examples of some possible alternatives include:

  • Pheromones: These are chemical hormones produced by a living organism that transmit a message to others of the same species. Insect synthetic pheromones for pests can be used to trap and control them by creating confusion, disrupting mating and preventing them from laying eggs.
  • Insect Growth Regulators: These are insect juvenile hormones that disrupt the growth and development processes of insects. They can cause sterilization of adult insects. When pests become adults, they are incapable of reproducing and the normal life cycle of pests is disrupted. 
  • Non-Volatile Baits: A bait containing a non-volatizing pesticide, like boric acid, is very effective in controlling pests and exposes low risk to human health. Baits contain insect or rodent poisons mixed with food. Pests will take some of the food containing the pesticide, and bring it back to the other members of the pest colony. 

Building Design and Maintenance to Avoid Pests

  • Eliminate cracks and crevices in food storage and handling areas with proper construction. Cracks and crevices are ideal areas for insects to breed and hide.
  • Consider that tight and smooth waterproof surfaces are easy to clean while porous surfaces can shelter insects.
  • Doors and windows should fit tightly and must have screens to prevent entry of insects. A good practice is to keep doors closed whenever possible.
  • Food containers should be stacked on pallets. Allocate enough space between stacked containers and walls for cleaning and inspection.  If possible, follow the 18-inch-rule of sanitation - place pallets 18 inches away from walls and 18 inches off the floor.
  • Empty garbage containers at least once per day in a proper disposal site located outside your facility. Ensure outside containers are covered with a lid. Put inside garbage containers in a suitable location and ensure they are large enough to prevent garbage overflow.
  • Maintain a routine cleaning schedule in the food processing plant. Spills and accidents should be cleaned right away. Even an hour without proper attention can be enough time to attract pests.
  • Food handling and storage areas should be accessible for thorough cleaning. There should be adequate equipment spacing in your facility. Equipment located one or two inches off the floor or less than an inch from the wall is difficult to clean and can be very attractive to cockroaches or other pests.
  • Pest infestations are less likely with a sufficiently cleared space around the exterior of the building. The surroundings should be free of debris and stagnant water.
  • Roofs and walls must be water proof because all pests need water to survive.
  • Proper lighting is important for insect control. Exterior lights should be placed away from the building to discourage insects from swarming near the building.
  • Verify that each pest control device is in good repair.
  • Rodent traps should be placed against the walls, behind objects and in dark areas. Never place poison baits inside the building. Traps should be spaced approximately 8 meters apart around the interior of the plant and within 3 meters of each exterior door.
  • Flying insects can be controlled with light lamps. High voltage light traps electrocute insects and can cause them to explode. Traps should not be placed within nine meters of exposed food or food contact surfaces. Low-voltage traps consist of an attracting light and a replaceable, sticky board. Flying insects are attracted and attached to the sticky board. To remain effective, the board should be replaced frequently. 

What to Look for in a Pest Management Provider

When looking for a pest management provider, look for:
  • Pest management providers must be licensed by the appropriate government agency.  A list of licensed pest management providers for Winnipeg and Manitoba can be found at Pest Control Canada
  • Providers should provide full, detailed proposals about the scope of the pest control job that will be done.
  • Providers should visit your plant every six months.
  • The expected response time to be effective against pests should be indicated.
  • Applicable guarantees should be provided.
  • Provider should supply reports with details of particular services, chemicals applied, detailed sanitation and structural recommendations to avoid pests and corrective action.
  • Trap layout maps of your facility should be provided.
  • Lists of approved pesticides to be used should be provided.
  • Pest management providers should have rigorous training in pest identification and behavior.
  • Providers should give documentation that includes material safety data sheets (MSDS) on products being used.

Pest Facts

  • contaminate food, destroy equipment and structures
  • neophobic, or afraid of new things, so rat traps may take several days to be effective
  • enter openings less than 1.3 centimeters (½ inch) in diameter
  • droppings, urine stains, gnawing indicate a nest , dry sweeping rodent droppings can be dangerous because dust can containing airborne viruses
  • adventurous and can travel 1.5 to 3 meters (50 to 100 feet) from their nests
  • do well in cool rooms and live outside in wintertime
  • creatures of habit - find their route of entry to make trapping them easier
  • methods of control include poisons, snap traps, glue boards, electrocution and live traps 
  • rodenticides are poison baits which prevent blood clotting in rodents
  • small rodents which can multiply rapidly
  • enter openings less than 0.6 meters (¼ inch) in diameter
  • transmit several serious diseases, including the fatal Hanta virus (illness that causes dizziness, nausea, fatigue, respiratory failure)
  • jump up to 30 centimeters high and climb vertical surfaces
  • discouraged by open spaces and move in areas up to 9 meters from nests in search of food, shelter and water
  • droppings, urine stains, gnawing indicate a nest
  • like the warmth of indoors and will investigate and enter a new trap quickly
  • feed on stored products and various types of seeds
German Cockroach
  • reproduce up to two million offspring in a year under optimal conditions
  • found in areas that remain undisturbed, such as storage areas
  • population can quickly grow in size and spill over open areas
  • enter buildings inside packages, boxes and recycling bins
  • live in high humidity, ground level areas where food is accessible
  • thrive in the wheels of mobile garbage containers
  • active at night and use sense of smell
  • do not tend to nest in coolers but prefer warmer places like power boxes, electric motors and walls
  • habitat is easy to identify by the presence of egg cases, which contain 30 to 40 eggs each
  • develop rapidly and studies confirm they will develop faster when their population is under stress
House Fly
  • females will lay up to 150 eggs in a batch on anything organic
  • larva hatch quickly and immediately feed on the organic material 
  • after feeding for a week, migrate away and seek cool, dry places to spin a cocoon, pupate and emerge as adults
  • a single house fly is able to carry 6.5 million bacteria
  • can be controlled with light traps
  • active during the day with keen vision
  • females constantly search for food
  • problem birds include starlings, blackbirds, pigeons, sparrows, geese, ducks, woodpeckers, swallows and crows
  • bird droppings are unpleasant and a health risk
  • cause a lot of damage to structure and landscape
  • large bird activity will breed parasites like mites and lice
  • bird controls such as metal spikes, discourage roosting
  • artificial hawks, snakes and chirping devices may work in short term
  • forbid employees to feed wild birds on the premises or toss bread to pigeons

Licensing to Apply Pesticides 

The Pesticide and Fertilizer Control Act states that a person must be licensed to be an applicator of commercial pesticides (including commercial bait products). This legislation is applicable to food processors and grain elevators.   
For more information, email the Food Safety and Inspection Branch or call 204-795-8418 in Winnipeg.