Minding your pests in packing and storage to pass a GAP audit

Know the basic considerations in controlling rodents and birds around pack houses and storage areas with a particular emphasis on meeting GAP standards.

Rodents and birds pose a significant contamination risk to produce after it is picked. Feces from rats and birds can spread E. coli and Salmonella on produce and packaging. Minimizing and controlling rodents should be a part of farms where produce is packed or stored in close proximity to the production area.

There are three steps to dealing effectively with rodents and other vertebrate pests with respect to Good Agricultural Practices. These steps are enumerating the risk and mitigation tactics you will use in your GAP Manual, enacting the changes on the farm and documenting that you are carrying out the changes.

The best way to manage vertebrate pests is to use multiple tactics to minimize their population. Try to reduce the suitability of habitat around your farm by reducing rubbish piles and high grasses. Store produce in shady structures equipped with netting in the rafters to exclude bird roosting. Use bird repellants like the distress calls of birds, Avitrol*, or noise cannons to deter roosting. Place a series of rodent traps around the packing area and monitor them daily to check for caught rodents. Every tactic you use should be documented in your GAP Manual.

It is helpful to remember the auditor is looking for evidence of a system written in the GAP Manual to minimize incidence of foodborne illness, visual evidence that it is taking place and documentation that it has been taking place in the past. Writing the vertebrate control Standard Operating Procedure is the first step. Implementing the practices on your farm is the next step. Documenting that you check the rodent traps is the final step.

Growers who are having difficulty tailoring GAPs to their farm are welcome to contact the Agrifood Safety Work Group at gaps@msu.edu or 517-788-4292. To obtain more information about Rodent and bird control, ask for the Guidance Document AFSM015-01.

* Use of the product name, Avitrol, does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation or condemnation either implicitly or explicitly by MSU Extension. Always read and follow label recommendations for all pesticides.

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