Container transport: A pest management checklist


July 24, 2017

McCloud Services transportNow that weather temperatures are in the 80s and 90s, proper transportation of processed foods and raw commodities is critical to avoid foodborne illness that directly affects consumers.

Pest infestations during transport can corrupt food quality when left unchecked, can infest the food facilities to which they are delivered, and can create significant waste when the quality of the food has been sacrificed.

The Food Safety Moderation Act (FSMA) also has established requirements for shippers, loaders, carriers by motor or rail vehicle, and receivers involved in transporting human and animal food to use sanitary practices to ensure the safety of that food.

What follows is my compiled list of tips and precautions to take when monitoring trailers/containers for pest infestations during transport:

  • Verify the trailer has been secured with the use of wheel chocks or other approved mechanical means, which will secure the trailer to the loading dock.
  • Inspect the interior and exterior of the trailer, looking at general cleanliness and areas of structural concern. The inspection should look at areas where pests could enter or create harborage and other conditions which could lead to product contamination.
  • Check the contents of the load for damage to any containers, and contaminants.
  • Inspect for pests and pest evidence, paying special attention to products or commodities that are more susceptible to infestation, with emphasis on shipments from suppliers who have shipped problem loads historically. Collect samples if anything is found.
  • If pest or pest evidence is present, work with your client to determine next steps, which may include rejection of product, destructive sampling, broad based case/pallet inspections or the use of fumigants labeled for food and commodities present.
  • If rodent presence is suspected, continue inspecting the trailer and contents and consider using a black light to detect rodent evidence. The process of black lighting takes experience to develop the necessary skill distinguishing rodent evidence from detergents, glues, lubrication oils, etc.
  • Be aware of any odors that might indicate contamination of products.
  • Inspect the condition of pallets for presence of pest evidence. Collect samples if anything is found.
  • Look for condensation or moisture inside the trailer.
  • Report any harmful non-food products in shipment, such as solvents, cleaning compounds, chemicals or petroleum-based materials. Co-mingling of goods creates additional risk.
  • If product or the trailer shows any evidence of tampering, pest activity, harmful non-foods, or product is improperly stacked, crushed or broken, notify the warehouse or receiving manager and quality management team.
  • Take moisture content readings of pallets, using a moisture meter.
  • Comprehensively document all findings related to the trailer inspection, and archive your reports.

Evaluating all the areas where breaches or critical events can occur should also be part of your food safety/pest management plan. For more on this topic, please see my article archived on McCloud Services’ website, titled “Transportation in the Chain of Custody.”


About the Author

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Jeff Jones is fumigation manager for McCloud Services, specializing in food safety and protection. Learn more at

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