An Overview of Pest Management

by Bill Schoenherr (Issue 4, 1983)

Let us begin by asking questions: Why pest management? What changes have taken place in the past 40 years? Where and why has there been progress and success? Who has been instrumental in the development of workable pest management programs?

Let us reconstruct the conditions that existed in the early ’40s and the changes that made it necessary to establish effective pest management programs. At that early date, much of the food consumed in the home and in restaurants was prepared from fresh and locally grown materials. As this country reconstructed following the financially difficult period between 1930 and 1940, the food processing industry also changed. Small companies that survived the depression began to expand, while large companies became even larger. The use of locally grown foods became the exception rather than the rule. Both in the home and in food service outlets, we relied upon food being commercially canned, dried and frozen prepared, processed or manufactured at some distant location. Dependence upon the commercially prepared foods that were shipped long distance and stored for long periods of time made it necessary to develop protective measures.

More strict legal requirements were enacted along with stricter enforcement. Equally important, it necessitated a commitment by industry to develop pest management practices in order to comply with the legal requirements and to reduce losses that occurred during processing as well as during poor shipping and storage conditions and from inadequate packaging.

Changes and improvement came quickly. Our schools of higher learning did an outstanding job of preparing students to meet the exacting requirements for food protection. Also credit should be given to the business community for acceptance of their legal and humane responsibilities.

The responsibility and credit for the spontaneous and rapid development of safe and realistic pest management programs represents the combined efforts of many dedicated individuals. As those early pioneers leave their active roles, it should be reassuring to everyone that the challenges of the ’80s will be met by qualified scientists, persons who have been trained to recognize the potential for quality failure and to set in motion the preventative measures to assure safe and nutritious foods. With prevention now the rule, not the exception, and with an ever-increasing number of qualified individuals directing the programs, along with new and vastly improved procedures, we can expect the high quality food that we are privileged to enjoy in this country to remain safe and pure.

Improved methods of construction for processing equipment and buildings and for storage and transportation facilities has reduced the need for time-consuming control procedures and likewise has reduced the need for expensive and often hazardous preservatives and pesticides.

The use of pheromones is another example of progress. The food industry is ready for this advanced technique of monitoring.

The need to “put out fires” is fading into the past, and the science of pest management is coming of age.

Bill Schoenherr is one of the pioneers that built the foundation for food safety and education for our industry.

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