Stored Product Insects (SPIs) are, as the name suggests, insects that can infest stored products, such as food or textiles. They are also known as pantry insects or food pests.
These pests pose two main risks. First, they can damage the raw materials and ingredients that are used to make the products. And second, they can contaminate the finished products. They pose a particular risk to food businesses, such as food processors, warehouses or retailers. They are also a significant concern for the hospitality sector and textile industries.
If a business is infested with SPIs, it can become a very expensive problem. As well as damaging the products, SPIs can raise serious health and safety issues in the work environment. They also can damage the packaging and food storage areas, creating unsafe contaminated environments. And their waste material can pose a health risk, resulting in food wastage. A serious SPI infestation could cost a business over €30,000 a year!
Types of SPIs
Flour beetles and grain beetles often attack food storage areas. They bore through the packaging to get at the food, resulting in damaged products that cannot be sold. Even if they don’t attack the food itself, the damaged packaging makes the product unfit for sale.
Fruit flies, meal moths and rice weevils
Flying insects pose another problem for food storage areas. They can cover a wide area and spread contamination as they travel from different food sites.
One of the major risks with an SPI infestation is that the problem can grow very quickly. When SPIs find a suitable environment, they will rapidly breed. Females might lay 400 eggs over time. This can lead to huge insect populations, with greater feeding needs, resulting in even more damage to the food.
The insect eggs can also find their way into the food supplies, making them unfit for human consumption. And when the eggs hatch, the insects will attack the nearest food source to sustain themselves.
A small problem
Most SPIs are small insects, making them difficult to spot with the naked eye. They are able to hide in little crevices and holes. They are also able to creep into tiny gaps and tears in packaging in order to get to the food. These small creatures can then cause a large amount of damage, hidden from view.
Food generally needs to be stored in well-light areas. Unfortunately, some SPIs, such as beetles, are attracted to brightly lit areas. Most SPI infestations occur in bight storage rooms.
The business impact
SPIs are more than just an unpleasant inconvenience. They can have a serious impact on business. The risks include:
- Food being eaten or contaminated by SPIs
- SPI waste material infecting the food
- SPI eggs and breeding contaminating the food
- Damage to packaging making the food unsafe
- SPI infestations contaminating or damaging the storage areas
Rentokil has discovered that many businesses in the food and hospitality sectors are concerned about the risks of SPI infestation. In fact, 73% of surveyed businesses regarded it as serious business threat. As well as the loss of stock, businesses could face significant risks such as health and safety non-compliance or reputation damage.
An SPI infestation can become a costly problem:
- 60% of businesses affected by SPIs have reported notable annual revenue losses
- 45% of surveyed businesses faced significant product or ingredient replacement costs
- 10% of surveyed hospitality business reported fines or closures
Tackling the problem
An SPI infestation can cause a variety of problems. And one solution on its own is not going to fix the situation. Instead, an integrated, tailored approach tacking both the problem and the source of the problem is needed.
Rentokil’s integrated pest management approach combines four core principles:
- Exclusion: Eliminating the opportunities for entry
- Restriction: Training staff in pest awareness to spot the early signs of infestations
- Destruction: Utilizing innovative solutions to remove pests from premises
- Monitoring: Regular checks and monitoring devices to detect early warning signs of pest infestations
Each SPI infestation is different and requires a customised solution to address the specific needs of the affected company or business.