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Pest control legislation in food processing

Rentokil provides solutions and services to help food processing businesses comply with the wide range of legislation affected by pest control.

Legislation concerning pest control for food safety is generally scattered among several distinct areas, including various aspects of food safety itself, but also environmental law on governing pesticide use, health and safety, wildlife control law, agricultural law and law on cruelty to animals.

Legislation generally specifies broad requirements for food safety (including pest control). However, the standards and accepted practices that businesses are recommended to follow to achieve compliance specify requirements in much greater detail. They are therefore, important for understanding how to comply with legislation.

  • General Food Law in the EU
  • Food hygiene law
  • US food safety Legislation
    • Pest control for food safety
    • Food Code
  • Food withdrawal and recall
  • GFSI-approved certification
  • Environmental protection
  • Health and safety — for working at height and in confined spaces
  • Wildlife protection

General Food Law in the EU

The EU General Food Law puts a requirement for traceability and responsibility for withdrawal and recall of contaminated food on food operators (Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, Articles 18 and 19). This includes importers, producers, processors, manufacturers and distributors:

The traceability of any substance intended to be, or expected to be, incorporated into a food must be established at all stages of production, processing and distribution.

Food processing operators must have systems and procedures that allow for this information to be made available to the competent authorities on demand.

Article 50 establishes a rapid alert system across member states for when there is a risk to human health or the environment in relation to food or food contact material.

Food hygiene law

The main legislation affecting food processors in the EU is Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the Hygiene of Foodstuffs. This contains general clauses that give broad guidelines for operating.

Dessert Manufacturing

Primary producers

In primary production and associated operations including transport, storage and handling, food business operators have a general requirement to protect food from contamination. This includes taking into account further processing that the products will undergo.

Primary production is categorised into two types:

  • Rearing, harvesting or hunting animals or producing primary products of animal origin
  • Operators producing or harvesting plant products


According to the EU Regulation (EU) No 852/2004, food business operators are required to prevent animals and pests from causing contamination by taking the appropriate, adequate, measures.

Operators are required to conform to the appropriate EU and national legislations on the control of hazards to prevent contamination from air, soil, water and biocides. They also have to take adequate measures to store and handle hazardous substances and waste in a way that prevents contamination.

Record keeping

Businesses must maintain and retain records relating to the measures used to control food safety hazards in an appropriate manner and for an appropriate period depending on the nature and size of the food business.

The law also specifies that food business operators producing or harvesting plant products must keep records on any occurrence of pests or diseases that may affect the safety of food products of plant origin.

Requirements for all food businesses operators

This part of the law specifies hygiene requirements that apply to all food business operators in more detail.

Food premises

The layout, design, construction, siting and size of food premises must permit good food hygiene practices, including the protection against contamination and, in particular, pest control. Food premises should be kept clean and maintained in good repair and condition.

Food Production

Food waste

Food waste is a good source of food for a range of different pests. To add to this the area where waste is stored can provide pests with harbourage. The legislation specifies that food waste, non edible by-products and other refuse must be:

  • Removed from rooms where food is present as quickly as possible to avoid their accumulation
  • Placed in closable containers, or other types that can be shown to be appropriate and accepted by the relevant authority. The containers must be of an appropriate construction, kept in sound condition, be easy to clean and, where necessary, to disinfect

The legislation also specifies that businesses must make adequate provision for storage and disposal of food waste and associated refuse. The refuse storage areas must be designed and managed so that they can be kept clean and, where necessary, free of animals and pests.

Handling and storage of foodstuffs

Raw materials and ingredients must be kept in appropriate conditions that protect from contamination. In all stages of production, processing and distribution, food must be protected against any type of contamination.

Food Processing

Adequate procedures are to be in place to control pests around areas where food is prepared, handled or stored.

Training in food safety

Food business operators are to ensure:

  • Staff are supervised and trained in food hygiene appropriate for their work
  • Staff responsible for applying HACCP principles have received adequate training to do so


The EU legislation also recommends the production of “national and community” guides to good hygiene practice, giving examples of the hazards that the guides could cover.

UK FSA checklist

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) provides a checklist to help small food producers comply with food safety law.

US food safety legislation

In the US, the FDA is responsible for federal legislation and issuing guidance for state and local government agencies.

The Code of Federal Regulations for Food and Drugs specifies the measures to be taken by food manufacturers. The areas directly relevant to pest control are included in the parts relating to buildings and facilities.

Pest control for food safety

  • Plant and grounds are to be kept in a condition that protects against food contamination, including removing litter, waste and weeds that can attract or harbour pests
  • Areas that can cause food-borne contamination or pest breeding areas are drained
  • Plant and facilities are designed and constructed to enable sanitary operations for food manufacturing and maintenance
  • There is adequate screening or other protection against pests
  • Pesticides and other chemicals such as cleaning agents are identified, and stored in a manner that protects against contamination of food, food contact surfaces and packaging materials. It also specifies that all legislation issued by other federal, state and local government agencies regarding these chemicals is followed
  • No pests are allowed in any area of the food plant. The business must take effective measures to exclude pests from food processing areas and protect food against contamination
  • Pesticides are permitted to be used only in a way that prevents contamination of food, food contact surfaces and packaging materials
  • Rubbish and any offal must be disposed of in a way that minimizes the potential for it to attract pests and give harbourage or breeding areas

Food Code

The Food Code is jointly issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Training Chefs

It is offered as a model code and reference document for local agencies at state, city, county and tribal levels that regulate food handling in businesses such as restaurants, retail food stores, food vendors, schools, hospitals, assisted living, nursing homes and child care centers.

The Food Code provides a much greater level of detail in specifying practices and materials to achieve food safety, for example even describing surface characteristics of floors to make them safe and easily kept hygienic.

Outer openings

Outer openings to food establishments should have measures to prevent the entry of insects and rodents by:

  • Closing holes and gaps along floors, walls, and ceilings
  • Closed, tight-fitting windows
  • Solid, self-closing, tight-fitting doors

Perimeter walls and roofs

Effectively protect the establishment from the weather and the entry of insects, rodents, and other animals.

Pest control in food premises

Maintain the premises and keep it free from insects, rodents, and other pests by:

  • Conducting routine inspections of incoming shipments of food and supplies as well as the premises
  • If needs be, use accepted methods of pest control, including removal of dead or trapped pests in suitable ways
  • Proofing against and eliminating harbourage

Use of pesticides in food premises

Poisonous materials must be stored so they cannot contaminate food, materials or equipment in food premises. Poisonous materials used for pest control must be suitable for use in a food establishment and used according to:

  • Law
  • The Food Code
  • The manufacturer directions
  • Conditions of certification for use of the pest control materials
  • Any conditions established by a regulatory authority

The pesticide must be applied in an approved way that prevents hazards to employees or other persons and prevents contamination of food, materials and equipment.

Some pesticides are legislated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and require a certified person to supervise use.

There are additional specifications for bait stations, which must be covered and be tamper resistant. Poisonous tracking powder cannot be used in a food establishment, and if non-toxic powder is used then precautions must be taken to prevent contamination.

Person in charge

A ‘person in charge’ ensures that the food establishment complies with Code requirements and maintains food safety. The person should control who is allowed in different areas of the food establishment, when visits are scheduled ensuring that all authorized persons in the establishment, including pest control operators, comply with the Code requirements.

Food withdrawal and recall

Food withdrawal is action taken to remove food from the supply chain when there is no risk to consumers, such as for a quality defect or technical error such as specified weight and labelling. Food can also be withdrawn as a precautionary measure if a potential safety risk is suspected.

Food Standards Australia defines a food recall as: “Action taken to remove from sale, distribution and consumption foods which may pose a safety risk to consumers.”

Food law generally requires that if a food business operator believes that a food which it has imported, produced, processed, manufactured or distributed is not in compliance with the food safety requirements, it has to withdraw the food from the market.

  • This also includes recalling food already distributed and informing the competent authorities
  • The operator is also responsible for informing consumers of the reason for withdrawal

A food recall can originate from alerts arising from several sources, including manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, government agencies and consumers:

  • A consumer level recall removes the product from production, distribution and from consumers who have already bought it
  • A trade level recall involves removal from distribution centres, wholesalers, restaurants and commercial kitchens

The US FDA classifies food recalls into four levels (also for medical devices, drugs and other products):

  • Class I recall: there is a reasonable probability that use or exposure to the product could cause serious adverse health consequences or death
  • Class II recall: use or exposure may cause temporary or reversible adverse health consequences
  • Class III recall: use of or exposure is not likely to cause adverse health consequences
  • Market withdrawal: a company removes a product from the market following a minor violation, such as product tampering, where there are no other signs of food safety violations.


The GFSI Global Markets Programme provides food manufacturing businesses with a four-step pathway to achieve certification, which is an important route to reaching legal compliance:

  1. Self-assessment: depending on the outcome the business could pass to step 2, 3 or 4 below
  2. Basic level assessment (matches 35% of key elements)
  3. Intermediate level assessment (matches 65% of key elements)
  4. Certification against a GFSI-recognised scheme

GFSI provides a framework for good practice in food manufacturing in its guidance on the development and delivery of training and the competencies required to achieve the Global Markets Programme Basic and Intermediate Levels for Food Manufacturing. The GFSI programme itself is based upon the Codex Alimentarius General Principles of Food Hygiene Code of Practice.

The programme is offered by GFSI to standards organisations to develop their own versions of the global programme, which some have. Many developing countries have also used them to raise awareness among local companies and build compliance with internationally accepted practices, standards and regulations.

The GFSI framework includes the following general and specific factors that encompass requirements to achieve suitable levels of pest control for prevention of food contamination and deterioration.

Facility environment

The food business facilities should be located and maintained to reduce the risk of contamination and enable the production of safe and legal products. Facilities where food ingredients, raw materials, packaging materials, semi-processed products and finished products are stored should be designed and constructed so that food safety is ensured.

Actions that need to be taken include:

  • Inspect food storage areas considering contamination risks, including pests
  • Check that drainage systems are in good condition, easy to clean and designed to minimise the risk of food product contamination, such as from the passage of pests
  • Roof and ceiling voids should allow access for pest control inspections
  • Windows and roof glazing that are openable should have pest screens fitted to prevent contamination of food, surfaces and equipment
  • External doors should be constructed to prevent the entry of pests
  • The surroundings of the facility should be maintained and kept free of waste and debris to minimise the risk of pest activity

Pest control

Food businesses need to ensure the correct systems are in place to prevent or minimise risk of pest infestation from rodents, insects and birds. This includes:

  • An effective pest control programme managed by someone with appropriate competence
  • Keeping external areas free of waste, debris and food sources
  • Keeping a completely clear perimeter area around buildings of about 0.5m
  • Keeping all doors and windows closed and making sure there are no gaps that allow pest access
  • Ensuring there is a proper cleaning and waste disposal regime
  • Monitoring of target pest species with appropriate equipment such as bait stations, electronic fly killers, traps, etc. and sited appropriately to reduce risk of contamination by pests of raw materials, ingredients, finished products, surfaces or during monitoring
  • Making and maintaining a map of all pest control stations
  • Pest control activities in food premises should be done by a licensed pest control specialist or by staff who have been trained and properly licensed
  • All monitoring activities should be planned, carried out and recorded

Waste management

Food businesses should have a suitable programme for the collection and disposal of waste to prevent accumulation of materials that can be either a refuge or a source of food for pests.

There should be procedures for waste management that include specifying the responsible person and the methods used to collect, handle and remove waste materials. These include:

  • Details of cleaning practices for waste containers and waste storage areas
  • Use of separate containers for waste storage
  • Procedures for containers and waste storage areas, for handling, marking, usage and colour coding
  • Waste management training for employees
  • Actions to take when procedures are not followed

Storage and transport

During the storage and transportation of food products, including raw materials, packaging, semi-processed and finished products, all necessary measures should be taken to avoid contamination and deterioration.

The condition of vehicles should be checked before use for risk of contamination, including pests or other types of goods that may adversely affect the food (such as chemicals).


The standard hazard analysis using HACCP should include assessment of risk from pests and pest control products and implementation following the seven principles defined by the Codex Alimentarius.

Food defence

Food defence concerns the intentional contamination of food by bacterial agents, toxins, chemicals, radiation or objects. Businesses are required to assess their ability to prevent intentional product tampering or contamination and have appropriate preventive control measures in place.


Businesses need to ensure that all staff, including temporary and part time, are adequately trained in food safety according to their responsibilities. This should include personal safety and health in addition to food safety.

Food standards

Food standards state specific procedures and requirements for compliance and certification and are therefore closely aligned with legislation requirements for food safety. Below is a list of some of the food standards:

The GFSI Global Markets Programme (which they are free to use and adapt in their standards) and consequently Codex Alimentarius guidelines.

Environmental protection

Any chemicals that are used throughout the food chain, from farm to consumer that could be present in food intentionally or accidentally, can have a cost implication for food processors. Various laws will control:

  • Which pesticides can be applied to food during production and storage
  • How much chemical residue can be present in food
  • Which chemicals can be used on food processing premises
  • How to handle, store and apply pesticides in various situations to prevent contamination by biocide chemicals or the pests themselves

The types of pesticides that can be used in the food chain and for general pest control on premises are evaluated and regulated by a range of government agencies.

In the EU, pest control products are regulated by the EU Biocidal Products Regulation (Regulation (EU) 528/2012). This covers a very diverse group of products that protect people and animals from harmful microorganisms and pests. It includes disinfectants, pest control products, and preservatives.

In the UK, pesticide regulation comes under the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The UK also has The Control of Pesticides Regulations (COPR) an older UK national scheme which covers various pest control products that contain active substances, which are not yet regulated under BPR.

In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for the continual monitoring and assessment of biocide chemicals to determine if they are safe to use. The US Department of Agriculture analyses pesticide residues in fruit, vegetables, grains, meat and dairy products, while the FDA collects data on residues in processed/ cooked food. This applies both to food products produced in the country and to imports.

The Food Quality Protection Act (1996) requires the EPA to determine tolerances and assess risk from exposure to pesticides from multiple sources — food, water, residential and other non-occupational sources.

According to the US EPA, people often think they can solve a pest control problem themselves with a quick fix. As an example, here is a partial list of ‘home remedy’ control measures for bedbugs that the EPA has come across — and that are NOT legal:

  • Mixing pesticides with other pesticides or ingredients, which can be dangerous and is unlikely to work well
  • Using rubbing alcohol — this compound vaporizes quickly, is flammable and has caused numerous fires
  • Using carbon dioxide, propane, helium or other unregistered gases to fumigate bed bugs
  • They are not registered and can lead to dangerous low-oxygen situations or cause an explosion
  • Buying pesticides from street vendors or other unreliable sources. You never know what you’re buying, whether it will work, or if it is safe
  • Using a pesticide in a way that doesn’t follow the label:
    • Using a pesticide labelled for outdoor use. This can make a home dangerous and uninhabitable
    • Using too much or applying more often than the label allows
    • Using too many fogger products at once, which could lead to a fire and/or explosion

Health and safety

Monitoring and surveying for pest control requires access to places such as confined spaces and places at height, where there is a risk of accidents and injury that needs managing.


The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported the following data on the number of accidents resulting from falls:

  • Ladders: 40%
  • Vehicles / fork lift trucks: 17%
  • Machinery / plant: 10%
  • Platforms: 10%
  • Stairs: 8%
  • Roof / false ceiling: 7%
  • Scaffold / gantry: 4%
  • Warehouse racking: 4%

It also reported that cleaning or maintenance (which includes pest control) was usually being undertaken where falls were from scaffolding / gantries, ladders, roofs or through false ceilings. Roof areas are common routes of infestation from various pests, including insects, rodents and birds.

In the food and drink industries, falls from height are one of the highest causes of fatal injury, comprising 20% of fatal accidents according to the HSE. In the UK, the Work at Height Regulations 2005 provide a framework for managing the risk.

Confined spaces

Confined spaces include tanks, silos, reaction vessels, effluent pits, and drains. Danger can arise from hazardous conditions or substances within the space. These can include:

  • Lack of oxygen
  • Engulfment from particulate substances (eg grains, sugar) liquids, or the presence of gases such as carbon dioxide that can cause suffocation or poisoning

The HSE suggests that you should ensure there is a safe system for working inside the space before entry. Identify the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of injury and ensure everyone involved is properly trained and instructed in what to do.

Wildlife protection

Wildlife protection may be legislated under several topics, including prevention of cruelty, safe use of pesticides (including use, storage and disposal), and protection of endangered wildlife eg due to contamination and misuse of pesticides and traps.

The pest animals themselves will be covered by the prevention of cruelty legislation, to ensure animals are killed humanely. For example, in the UK the protection of wild animals is covered by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, enforced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. When control methods are used on pests such as rodents or pigeons, the Animal Welfare Act (2006) deals with issues of cruelty and suffering to all vertebrate animals.

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