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Food Safety News

RKE Case Study: The Elusive Silverfish

A corrugated box manufacturer had received a complaint of a silverfish in the corrugate of a carton sent to a food manufacturer. Fortunately, the carton was secondary packaging and would not have contacted any food directly. The RK Environmental Services (RKE) regional operations manager was contacted and a service specialist dispatched to investigate.

The service specialist was familiar with the location but had never noticed any silverfish during past services or inspections so an investigation was completed with help from the plant QA manager.

Archived reports were reviewed and there was no record of silverfish being identified or treated in the previous few years (150+ services). While discussing the issue in the employee break room, one of the few quiet areas of the plant, a maintenance employee overheard the conversation and stated that he sees silverfish “all the time” in the boiler room.

The service specialist was unaware of the boiler room as it was nestled deep in the building, behind a large blast door labeled “Authorized Personnel Only” so it wasn’t accessible and essentially off limits for safety reasons.

When entering the boiler room with the maintenance personnel it was dark, extremely warm and very humid, ideal conditions for many pests, especially silverfish. As soon as the lights were turned on dozens of silverfish were observed, along with a few Oriental Cockroaches, scattered into open floor/wall junctures and the floor drains.

The service specialist wasted no time in getting to work treating the areas. A mixture of an insect growth regulator (IGR) and suspension concentrate residual insecticide were applied in all cracks and crevices throughout the boiler room. The residual insecticide was labeled for control of both the silverfish and Oriental cockroaches. A dozen glue boards were also placed in various locations in the room to allow for monitoring of additional activity.

To ensure regular inspections could be undertaken, the service specialist was provided a key to the room and given full access. Weekly inspections of the area showed a decline in activity and the maintenance personnel caulked all of the open cracks and crevices to remove potential harborage and/or entry points.

How the rogue silverfish made it into a carton remains a mystery.

Take Away Tips:

  • Talking to employees is a great source of information
  • Customer complaints are a useful tool for identification of issues
  • Not all areas are exempt from inspection
  • The more secluded, the likelihood of activity increases
  • Not all insects are common
  • Record all activity