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Hygiene and pest control 2023

| Ivana | Editorial Feature

Prevention is better than cure


The ins and outs of in-store pest control and hygiene

When it comes to hygiene and pest control, what happens behind the scenes should stay behind the scenes. The only thing consumers want to see (and smell) is a clean, hygienic, and pest-free space, but what exactly goes into that? And exactly how manageable is it to achieve an entirely pest-free environment?

For the answers to these critical (and governed by legislation) issues, we looked to industry experts such as PES Africa, Rentokil, and Sani-touch. The common thread? Prevention, prevention, prevention. ln fact, Rentokil’s Nathalie Leblond says, “We talk just as much about ‘pest prevention’ at Rentokil as we do ‘pest control’.” And when it comes to prevention, PES Africa and Rentokil agree that Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is crucial for effective pest control.

What is IPM?

According to PES Africa (, “Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a long-standing, science-based, decision-making process that identifies and reduces risks from pest management-related strategies. It coordinates the use of pest biology, environmental information, and available technology to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage by the most economical means, while posing the least possible risk to people and pets, in all arenas from developed residential and public areas to wild lands. IPM serves as an umbrella to provide an effective, all encompassing, low-risk approach to protect resources and people from pests.”

Rentokil says, “IPM is an environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that employs a combination of practices, including comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests, their behaviour, biology, and their interactions with their environment to eliminate the root cause of a pest infestation. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment. IPM takes advantage of all appropriate pest management options including, but not limited to, the careful and targeted use of pesticides” ( In a nutshell, IPM is about preventing pest infestations as much as it is about reacting to them.

The advantages of  Integrated Pest Management

There are several advantages to implementing an IPM approach, and also in all likelihood cost implications. The impact of IPM on your pest control costs will depend entirely on what solutions you currently employ. Certain preventative measures utilised in IPM can be quite costly, including any structural changes required to help prevent and deter pests. However, in the longer term, pesticide reduction may ultimately reduce your pest control costs, and cultural controls and structural modifications implemented for pest control purposes can often result in secondary benefits, such as an improved work environment, reduced energy costs, and reduced building maintenance.

IPM, when applied correctly, can be a more effective pest control solution than traditional reactive solutions. The key here is to effectively implement an IPM programme in partnership with an accredited service provider who understands the IPM solution and how best to make it work for your specific needs. This is not a good DIY option and is best left to the experts.

Pest prevention is a healthier option all round. Besides for stock loss due to infestation and damage, different pests carry different pathogens, some of which can be incredibly dangerous to humans. Additionally, pesticides are undeniably dangerous and pose risks for the environment, possible secondary poisonings as well as accidental human exposure, this either through the air or via direct contact with treated surfaces. According to PES Africa, “IPM is being recognised by many experts as the best means to control pests effectively, while using the least amount of pesticide necessary. An increasing number of organisations, municipalities and schools are mandating that IPM programmes be implemented in their buildings. Since IPM results in fewer pests than traditional pest control, it usually results in less pesticide used. However, whether IPM will reduce the amount of pesticide used in a building will in large be determined by what was being done for pest control before the IPM programme was implemented. Most facilities managers report substantial reduction in pesticide use with IPM.”

Social media has had an undeniable impact on pest control. Just one photo of a pest in-store (such as rats in chicken and mice in the deli) can go viral and do untold damage to a store or group’s reputation at a national level. And it doesn’t even have to be true… or recent.  Retailers know that when consumers lose their trust in you, it’s a monumental feat to win that back. But in addition to posts going viral, social media has also put the pressure on retailers to do better, be more humane, and find more ‘socially acceptable’ ways of controlling pests of all sorts.

As a proactive pest control solution, IPM is an environmentally conscientious option that also takes into account the health of building occupants and customers.

Trust the IPM process: an ongoing, multi-step action

IPM is based on four principles, namely ERDM – Exclusion, Restriction, Destruction, and Monitoring. When implemented correctly, these principles result in a proactive solution that relies on prevention as much as cure.

Accurately identifying existing and potential problems and concerns is the first step in implementing a successful IPM plan. This includes everything from an understanding of structural engineering and how this affects certain infestations, through to a thorough knowledge of pests, including correct identification as well as extensive knowledge of their habits and life cycles.

Rentokil says, “Exclusion means ensuring that pests can't gain access to your building. We believe there’s no point simply eliminating the pests inside your building (reacting) without also tackling how they are getting in.” An initial survey will assess entry points, and recommendations will be made regarding proofing, structural repairs, and general improvements to keep pests out.

FMCG retail and wholesale stores are little havens of paradise for pest-type creatures. Refrigeration provides moist, cool and dark hiding places, while dry goods such as flour, rice, cake mixes, seeds, nuts, teas, cereal, dog food and bird seed are firm favourites. It’s essential to keep your store clean and free of dry as well as wet spillages.

Garbage cans and dumpsters are another area of congregation. Bins in canteens are just as enticing as the skips out at the back. Regular servicing, clearing and sanitising is essential. Trash cans inside your store must be emptied and cleaned at regular intervals during the day, especially those in food prep or food storage areas, and in employee break rooms.

Back of house storage areas, warehouse and loading/offloading areas and other doorways provide entry points for pests in retail and wholesale stores. Lighting in the offload area and parking can also attract pests. Firewood and plants should also be regularly moved, inspected and treated for pest invasions.

PES Africa emphasises  that continuous inspection and monitoring of potential and existing infestation sites is necessary for an accurate understanding of your pest problems. “Most IPM programmes will require record books or logs placed in central areas or management units. These records include monitoring counts, sanitation, maintenance, and personnel practice problems, pesticide use, formulations, and quantities. These records should be accessible to pest management technicians and client supervisors.”

Short-term corrective action can include restriction, preventative maintenance, and the possible use of short-term pesticides, poisons, or humane elimination methods where necessary. Restriction identifies and removes or prevents access to the food, water, and harbourage (nesting space) sources that can attract pests. This requires an understanding of what is possible and practical on your site.

It is imperative to consider all practical measures for pest population suppression, including regular cleaning schedules, garbage elimination, and changes in worker procedures. Physical modifications and maintenance include screening, caulking (using silicone fillers and sealants), weatherstripping for doors and windows, and other proofing methods. Biological controls and pesticides should only be considered in conjunction with the impact on economics, efficacy, worker and public health and safety, and potential hazards to property and the environment.

According to PES Africa, urban IPM strategies are, ultimately, a combination of many commonsense decisions based on sound understanding of the pest, the environment, and the social implications of one or more control tactics.

Pest management and the environment: three eco-friendly options

  • South African Trapping Systems ( offers an effective and humane solution that does not use poisons or toxins, making it the safest option of rodent elimination for predators such as owl, other birds of prey, and small carnivores. The Goodnature A24 automatic rat and mouse trap is a trap and app solution that keeps track of pest kills as well as environmental data, giving you a better understanding of your particular rodent problem. It automatically resets 24 times, using a compression trigger activated and set off by the rodent. Rodents are attracted by an automatic paste pump. Dispatched rodents are then safe to be scavenged or disposed of. Goodnature’s traps, trap stands, gas canisters, counters, and lures can be deployed indoors but are able to withstand outdoor conditions as well. The traps are also designed to target specific pests only. This solution is effective, humane, and easy to use. Andre Botha, Programme Manager: Vultures for Africa, Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), says, “The EWT has tested and seen the Goodnature rodent trap in operation and believes that it provides a preferable method of controlling rodent infestations than the use of poisons and harmful rodenticides that pose a threat to humans, other animals and the environment. The Goodnature rodent trap is target specific and does not result in secondary mortality of wildlife or pets. We support the use of this trap if used as per the recommendations and instructions of the suppliers.”
  • When it comes to rat and mouse control, poison may not be your first choice. If you prefer not to use toxins that may have a negative knock-on effect on the ecology of your surroundings, there are several options to consider. Feral cat communities are incredibly beneficial when managed correctly. This includes undertaking a responsible trap, neuter, and return (TNR) programme, as well as managing the overall health and wellbeing of the colony (ensuring vaccines are up to date and shelter, food and water are provided). Supplementary feeding, particularly in winter, is also recommended. Feral cat colonies serve as both a pest deterrent and pest control. They are also not dependent on the pest coming to them and will actively seek out your pest problem. Contact your local feral cat organisation for assistance.
  • Owls are an exceptionally effective form of rodent control. Putting up owl boxes can attract these predators to your grounds, but this is not guaranteed. However, if you manage to attract an owl (or two), their presence also serves as rodent deterrent. Engaging an expert partner to install owl boxes at your properties ensures that you have the best possible chance of attracting one of South Africa’s owl species. Groups such as the Owl Rescue Centre ( can also advise on alternative rat and mouse management protocols.

All of these options, however, will require that no poisons are used, as secondary poisoning is an unfortunate reality.

The importance of hygiene

Effective hygiene and sanitisation processes, as well as best-practice food preparation and storage solutions, are absolutely integral to pest control. The fact of the matter is that dirt, grime, and food particles will attract a range of pests. And a clean environment with incorrectly stored food products is equally attractive to unwanted invaders.

When it comes to well-thought out and efficient cleaning solutions, there are various service providers with a wealth of experience in the retail and wholesale sector, and an extensive understanding of what it takes to meet health and safety standards. According to hygiene and sanitation experts Sani-touch, it is essential to implement effective and easy-to-follow processes that include food preparation areas in your HMR and deli operations, through to  cleaning floors, counters, and high-touch surfaces.

Colour- and picture-coded cloths for food preparation provide an easy and effective way to reduce cross-contamination and cross-infection. For example, Sani-touch has a range of UV-treated antimicrobial cloths that are designed for use in food preparation areas. Each range is printed with a picture and a word, in colour, to maintain optimum hygiene standards. The cloths cover bakery, fish, vegetable, meat, deli, coffee, and high-risk prep areas.

Another weapon in the sanitation armoury is all-purpose biodegradable eco wipes that can be dispensed from a wall-mounted dispenser. These sanitising paper-based wipes are biodegradable and flushable and are suitable for use on hands and surfaces. Your hygiene and sanitation programme should also include regular cleaning of electronic screens, scales and packaging equipment, and checkouts. A detergent-based disinfectant wipe is most effective for this. Ensuring all high-touch surfaces, including those found on trolleys and handbaskets, is also important as minimising bacteria and food smears can help deter certain pests.

Regular deep cleaning of kitchen and food preparation areas is an important part of your hygiene and sanitisation process. According to Initial Hygiene, local experts in hygiene services and solutions, “A chemical deep cleaning service will enable your team  to maintain the highest possible standards in hygiene and extend the lifespan of your kitchen equipment” ( This specialised deep cleaning services reduces the risk of cross contamination by removing carbon deposits, grease, grime, and solidified oils. Grease traps are a major pest hazard and investing in a regular biological dosing service can help deter pests.

An integrated hygiene and pest control solution

Pest control and hygiene remain inextricably linked, with both posing significant challenges for retailers and wholesalers. However, with expert partners offering effective and easy-to-use solutions, the successful implementation of IPM programmes, and a good understanding of what is needed and what is achievable, this needn’t be a headache for store managers and owners.

By Ann Baker-Keulemans

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