The food shipping industry has had to adapt over the past few years, as supply chain regulations have become more stringent in the evolving global market. Particularly in the United States, implementing proactive measures to protect human food products from contamination is a must.


With Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations in full effect, all food manufacturing and processing facilities need to have a written food safety plan to help proactively protect their products against potential contaminants.

As part of the food safety plan, pests must be taken into consideration, so insects and wildlife alike must be kept out of the facility and away from food products. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program is the best way to do this, and it should always be tied into the larger food safety plan. Pest issues can be difficult and costly to resolve if they’re not detected quickly.

In addition, a food safety plan should include preventive controls along the supply chain as determined by your Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) who will help determine the potential hazards in your facility and should help author your food safety plan.

Even if suppliers are checking and implementing control measures to protect their products, pests are tough to eliminate entirely. They are relentless in their pursuit of food, water and shelter. Because your products are grain-focused, they’re a food source for a variety of different pests, which is why it’s so important to watch for pests throughout the supply chain.

The quicker you can detect a pest problem and more accurately pinpoint where it originated from, the faster you can resolve the issue. You need to form a communicative relationship with your suppliers to help ensure your products aren’t compromised upon arrival.

Make sure you’re doing the following to avoid bringing pests into your own facility or sending them to one of your partners further down the supply chain:

  • Inspect shipments for signs of pest activity, especially incoming shipments. Look for live or dead insects and damage to the product itself.
  • If products are packaged, ensure packages are properly sealed and undamaged before transport.
  • If a pest is found, segregate any compromised product immediately to avoid spreading pests to other goods or allowing them into the facility.
  • Install monitoring devices in shipping and receiving areas to help detect and determine the number of pests present.

Pest issues are tough to spot, so it may help to have your pest management professional do a staff training session to help your employees learn what these pests look like and some potential signs of pest activity. Most companies will do these trainings for free.

Common grain pests

If you’re looking for quick tips, below are some of the most common pests you’re likely to encounter in grain processing environments.

  • Stored Product Pests: there are different kinds of stored product pests, but all are masters of thriving in and around grain products undetected. The sawtoothed grain beetle, for example, is a tiny scavenger that will eat about anything but loves broken grains and oats. Indian meal moths are another example, and these pests leave behind a distinctive silk webbing near the surface of infested grains. These are the most likely pests you’ll find on incoming shipments, as they’re experts at breaking into and surviving within product packaging.
  • Rodents: rats and mice carry numerous disease-causing pathogens that they can spread by simply making contact with equipment or products. Along with their ability to fit through small gaps (mice can fit through a hole the size of a dime while rats can fit through a hole the size of a quarter), rodents will chew on just about anything. To detect rodents in your facility, look for yellowish-brown grease marks around corners and along baseboards, as these marks can be caused by a rodent’s fur as it scurries around the facility and rubs against these areas.
  • Cockroaches: adaptable and able to fit through tiny gaps, cockroaches are a threat to food products because they’ll eat just about anything. Once they’ve broken into a package, they’re set. And because they can reproduce quickly, a few roaches can turn into an infestation in a matter of weeks. Look for dark spots around corners and on baseboards at the bottom of walls where cockroaches frequent.

An employee cleans equipment, which is an important aspect of an integrated Pest Management Program. Photo courtesy of Orkin. 
Documentation is key


If you’re not sure if you need a supply chain management program, it’s recommended that you look further into FSMA regulations or talk to your PCQI. As a guideline, a developed supply chain management program is not required if no hazards exist, the receiving facility (you) controls the hazard or those further down the supply chain control the hazard. Use approved suppliers whenever possible, and make sure you’re conducting and documenting the necessary verification activities.

It can be difficult at times to ensure the raw ingredients you’re receiving are safe from pests and other contaminants, especially if you have numerous suppliers or switch frequently. You’ll have to use approved suppliers, which requires verification via audit, sampling/testing or review of food safety records before you can accept the raw goods.

With any food safety and pest management programs, documentation is key. There are numerous documents you’ll need that should be kept on hand, which include the food safety plan, a list of service changes over time, list of pest monitoring devices/traps in the facility, annual assessments, pest sighting reports and proof of training/certification of the pest management professional.

Add these to the list if you want to more easily demonstrate your supply chain program’s compliance with FSMA regulations:

  • Supply chain program, including suppliers and ingredients
  • Receiving procedures, including the pest management program that helps to prevent pests from entering the facility on products or through loading areas.
  • Receiving records, or, in other words, documentation of shipments received from suppliers.
  • Monitoring records of any captured pests in or around the facility and any corrective actions taken.
  • Application records for treatments used in and around the facility.

When importing products from another country, the requirements are slightly different from facilities in the United States. These fall under a Foreign Supplier Verification Program, which requires different compliance documents and monitoring of the foreign suppliers’ food safety plans.

It’s always easiest to proactively prevent pests rather than remediate an infestation. So, throughout the supply chain, the most important rule is this: if you see something, say something. The quicker you can resolve pest issues in your facilities and with your suppliers, the quicker you’ll get back to maximizing profits.