Top pests in the pharmaceutical industry

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The most common pests in the pharmaceutical sector | Rentokil

Pests can cause large economic losses in the pharmaceutical industry through contamination of raw materials, store rooms, laboratories, production areas, packaging and finished products.

Regulations require cleaning operations to include laboratory tests to validate sanitation and hygiene and absence of residue from previous production ingredients and cleaning products.

The standards expected are extremely high to maintain the quality and efficacy of products.

The consequences of pest infestation can be serious for a company, including:

  • damage to reputation and brand;
  • financial cost of contaminated raw materials, finished products, and production downtime;
  • loss of trust;
  • loss of orders, customers and revenue;
  • claims for compensation;
  • legal action by regulatory or public health authorities.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an essential component of good manufacturing practices for maintaining high standards of sanitation. An IPM programme develops the most appropriate practices for monitoring, preventing and controlling pest infestations according to a customer’s specific business requirements.

Decades of experience with thousands of customers in the pharmaceutical sector has given us at Rentokil unique expertise and insights in progressing our pest control services. Based on this expertise and experience, we think that the major pests affecting pharmaceutical businesses are:

Flying insects

A number of fly species can be present around manufacturing facilities, depending on the environment, the materials used in the plant that could attract insects, and the potential breeding conditions around the plant.

Flying insects that could infest a facility and compromise clean areas include:

  • house flies (Musca domestica);
  • fruit flies (Drosophila species);
  • bluebottles (Calliphora vomitoria);
  • drain flies (Psychodidae family);
  • cluster flies (Pollenia species);
  • flesh flies (Sarcophagidae family).

Hazards from flies

Flying insects have been found to carry over 100 human pathogens, including Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli, Cryptosporidium, parasitic worms and fungi. They feed on faecal matter, garbage, rotting materials, as well as stored food products. They move between contaminated food sources and clean areas, carrying filth on their bodies as well as pathogenic microorganisms they have ingested. Flies such as house flies regurgitate digestive juices and defecate while feeding and resting, contaminating foods and surfaces with pathogenic and decay microorganisms.

For pest control, it is important to identify which fly species is present as each has different attractants and breeding habits.

  • Different fly species are attracted to different food products, including fermenting sugars, oils and fats, carbohydrates, and decaying proteins and vegetable matter.
  • Fruit flies are attracted to fermenting sugary liquids, in which they can feed and breed in very small amounts, such as in garbage containers, drains and old drinks bottles.
  • Drain flies are attracted to rotting food, sewage and other organic waste material. They lay eggs in organic waste that can build up in drains or polluted shallow water. They can breed in the gelatinous biofilms that form on surfaces in drains and septic tanks, and are resistant to cleaning and pest-control chemicals.

Fly control

Flying insects can be controlled using appropriate design and maintenance of the facility, general hygiene practices, and elimination of an infestation using a range of Rentokil products suitable for use in a pharmaceutical plant.

Exclusion

Exclusion is dependent on the design and maintenance of the facility, including:

  • use of screens on windows and vents, maintained in good condition;
  • appropriate external door design, eg automatic doors, air curtains, roll-up doors; vinyl strip doors;
  • doors are kept shut when not in use;
  • maintenance of the building to prevent gaps appearing in any part of the building structure that would allow insects to enter.

Hygiene practices

Standard hygiene practices are important for controlling flies to reduce attractive odours, feeding material and breeding sites.

These include:

  • implementing good manufacturing practices should ensure production areas are kept at a high standard of hygiene to maintain the integrity of the manufacturing process.
  • garbage is disposed of regularly — at least twice a week in hotter climates;
  • garbage containers are cleaned, not overflowing and can shut properly;
  • all equipment used to handle garbage is cleaned regularly;
  • there is sufficient storage volume for the waste produced;
  • the areas where garbage is stored are kept clean and well maintained;
  • supply areas and vehicles where spills can accumulate and decay are kept clean;
  • hygienic practices are applied to canteen, kitchen and office areas;
  • drains are kept free of accumulating organic matter and cleaned with appropriate products.

Elimination of flies

  • UV light traps and pheromone traps can be used to trap flies to help prevent build-up of breeding populations. Rentokil ’s series of Luminos Fly Killers trap flies attracted by UV light on an adhesive film that automatically winds up to prevent contamination from the dead insects. They are far more effective than conventional electronic fly killers;
  • Fly baits and liquid formulations. Depending on the type of fly infesting a facility and the severity of the problem, a technician may recommend the use of a fly bait or liquid formulation application.

Crawling insects

Cockroaches are the most common type of crawling insect that infest facilities.

Cockroaches cause particular problems because of their size, giving them the ability to hide in small places, their varied diet, rapid reproduction and the diseases they can carry.

Cockroach species

There are three common species that infest facilities:

  • German Cockroach (Blatella germanica): the adult is about 12-15mm long and light brown. It prefers wet, humid conditions and can infest production areas and equipment, storage areas, vehicles, offices and administrative areas, kitchens and bathrooms.
  • American cockroach (Periplaneta americana): the largest cockroach that may infest facilities, adults are 35-40mm long and reddish brown. It requires warm, humid environments to survive. They are found in drains, sewers, basements, storage rooms and waste storage areas.
  • Brown Banded Cockroach (Supella longipalpa): one of the smallest cockroaches at 10-15mm long, it is light brown with yellow-brown stripes across the abdomen. It prefers a warm, humid environment, 27°C and over, so in temperate climates needs heated buildings to survive. It can be found around electric motors, light switches, electrical appliances and in ceilings, attics, in kitchens and places where paper is stored. It tends to feed on material with a high starch content and rarely flies.

Cockroaches are primarily nocturnal, sheltering in the daytime and coming out at night to find food and other sites for shelter. They shelter in dark places such as cracks, crevices, drains, sewers, inside equipment, machinery and hidden spaces that provide the right temperature and humidity. These places are also hard to reach using normal cleaning and sanitation methods.

Risks from cockroaches

  • Diseases and allergens: cockroaches can carry a large number of disease-causing microorganisms, including Staphylococcus, Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli;
  • Filthy feeding habits: cockroaches feed on decaying matter, mould, faecal matter in sewers, from rodents and birds, and animal carcasses, which can then be transmitted into the production area on their bodies or from excreta;
  • Excretions: they defecate along their pathways and frequently expel saliva on surfaces to ‘taste’ their environment;
  • Stains and smells: droppings and bodily secretions stain and leave a foul odour that can permeate infested areas, products and packaging;
  • Body parts: cast skins and egg cases contaminate products and packaging;
  • allergens: droppings and shed skins contain allergens, which can trigger asthma attacks when there are heavy populations;

Cockroach prevention

Good sanitation practices will help prevent infestations and pick up the presence of cockroaches:

  • Cockroaches can feed on small residues of foodstuffs; good cleaning practices which eliminate the residues quickly will deny them a food supply;
  • Store products in cockroach-proof containers: they eat cardboard so this should not be used for storage;
  • Maintain drains in good condition to prevent accumulation of food debris and means of access and shelter;
  • Removal of waste from production areas, garbage container design that denies access to all pests, positioning of garbage containers away from storage and processing areas, emptying and cleaning frequently, all reduce risk of infestation;
  • Good building design can reduce the risk of access eg through spaces around pipe and cable ways, vents, screens, windows, doorways, sewers; and harbourage in small spaces such as junction boxes.
  • A good inspection regime for equipment, buildings and shipments will pick up infestations and identify risks quickly.

Cockroach control

A number of treatments are available for control of cockroaches, including sprays, aerosols, dusts and bait. The insecticides used must be permitted for use in a pharmaceutical facility and will require competent, trained personnel to apply them.

Rentokil can survey facilities and advise on the suitable, safe and permitted means of control, including chemical-free control methods suitable for sensitive business environments and insect monitor units to detect signs of activity.

Rodents

Rats and mice pose a serious risk to pharmaceutical facilities from both the damage they can cause to buildings, fittings, equipment and products, and the risk of contamination from a range of pathogens in a highly sensitive production environment.

Hazards from rodents

The hazards to facilities from rats and mice include:

  • damage to buildings and fixtures, especially electrical wiring;
  • damage to machinery leading to production downtime;
  • contamination along access routes with urine, droppings, and filth picked up from the environment;
  • damage to product containers and packaging;
  • eating products in stores;
  • contamination of products, packaging and surfaces with droppings, urine, filth;
  • transmission of a large number of diseases, including salmonellosis, leptospirosis, Weil’s disease, toxoplasmosis, and rat-bite fever;
  • rodents carry ectoparasites, including ticks, fleas, lice and mites and are therefore also vectors for the diseases that these carry.

Signs of rodents

Rats and mice have distinct but different signatures that show which pest is present:

  • droppings, which have a distinctive size and shape for each species;
  • sightings of live or dead animals;
  • noises: squeaks, gnawing sounds, scurrying sounds;
  • smudge marks along their runs caused by their oily fur;
  • tracks in dust or powder used for the purpose;
  • gnawing of building materials, wiring, food and packaging: the gnaw marks are distinctive;
  • urine stains are left by both rats and mice and can be detected using UV light;
  • urine pillars form where mice infest an area over a long period and they repeatedly urinate in the same places.

Rodent prevention

Control of rodents involves the elimination of harbourage in and around buildings and preventing access to food, water and shelter. There may be many points of entry to a building, such as cracks, vents, pipes, cabling, drains, doorways, windows and screens, where measures can be taken to prevent access.

Rodent elimination

Any rodents present must be controlled using traps or poison according to acceptable practices and legislation related to pharmaceutical production.

Rodenticides used in pharmaceutical facilities must be approved products, placed in secure bait stations and away from production areas. If stored on site they must also be stored in suitable conditions that prevent contamination from the poison in products and the environment.

Expertise is needed to determine the type of bait used, where it should be placed and the frequency, the monitoring regime and the documentation, which is best done using an outside contractor. If done in-house, staff will need to be certified to handle the chemicals and carry out the rodent control activities.

Rentokil offers a range of industry-leading rodent-control systems suitable for use in pharmaceutical facilities. We select the most appropriate combination of devices for each customer’s circumstances to monitor, alert and eliminate rodents.

Birds

The buildings of a manufacturing facility provide safe areas to roost on the structure and in spaces such as under roofs. The most common bird pests are pigeons, house sparrows, seagulls and starlings.

Hazards from birds

Birds can cause physical damage by dislodging roofing material, particularly the larger birds, and blocking guttering with nests and feathers. Their droppings foul buildings, vehicles, paved areas and building entrances.

Inside buildings, bird droppings, nesting material and feathers can contaminate surfaces, equipment and products.

Birds are known to transmit over 60 human pathogens, including Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium and avian flu.

Bird nesting and roosting sites also encourage infestations of bird mites, fleas and some beetle species.

Bird control

Bird control consists of preventing access to food, water and shelter. Basic practices to prevent access to food and water are:

  • keep doors closed when not in use;
  • remove spillages quickly;
  • keep garbage storage areas clean and containers shut;
  • garbage containers should be bird proof;
  • remove any standing water where possible;
  • regularly check food storage areas for potential bird access points.

Denying shelter includes eliminating nesting and feeding sites on buildings and in the vicinity of the facility. This should start with the building design and include measures to prevent access to flat roofs, balconies, ledges, chimney stacks, guttering and culverts, which are favourite areas for nesting.

Rentokil provides a range of bird repellent systems including:

  • netting;
  • needle strips;
  • electric bird deterrent;
  • scaring devices;
  • traps;
  • entry barriers eg vertical plastic strips, automatic doors;
  • sticky pastes.

Rentokil offers an Integrated Bird Management Program that safely and humanely controls bird pests through a comprehensive solution of trapping, removal, and targeted exclusion techniques.

Stored product insects

Stored product insects (SPIs) include beetles, weevils, moths and mites (arachnids) that can infest edible pharmaceutical ingredients such as starches, sugars or natural herbal products used to extract medically active compounds.

SPIs introduce undesirable microorganisms into sterile ingredients, making them unfit for use.

The pest activity in ingredients can also change their physical and chemical properties which can halt production lines and damage machinery.

Stored product insects can also enter packaging made of paper, cardboard, plastic, cellophane and foil. The entrance holes of some insect are smaller than can be seen by the human eye.

Signs of stored product pests include:

  • live or dead insects (small beetles and moths), larvae, pupae or silken webbing on storage bins;
  • holes, larvae or webbing on the outside of packets or bags;
  • larvae, pupae or silken webbing around the building such as on beams and window sills
  • pests caught in insect traps.

Rentokil offers a range of systems for the monitoring and control of stored product pests, including glue traps with species-specific pheromone bait, pheromone traps, heat treatment and fumigation.

Contact us today to discuss how we can support your business needs!

Bibliography

WHO. Public Health Significance of Urban Pests.

UNIDO. Good Manufacturing Practices: Pest Control. Paper 9.