The Impact of Stored Product Insects (SPI) Across the Food Chain

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According to a study done by the International Food Policy Research Institute, pests destroyed an estimated RM185 billion worth of crop productions annually in Asia with stored product insects (SPI) identified as the major pest that contributed to the losses.

SPIs is a general term that covers beetles, weevils, moths and mites that infiltrate stored food products. Unfortunately, SPI issues are rarely discussed even though they wreak havoc along a food supply chain. SPIs can cause food products to become unfit for consumption which could lead to product recalls and damaged reputations. Hence, SPI prevention is necessary to protect your business.

Invasiveness of the SPI

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The common SPIs in Malaysia include the cigarette beetle, rice weevil, and more. All of which are characteristically small with a length of approximately 4mm. SPI larvae can penetrate and begin to infest any stored food product with an opening of just 0.12mm.

Despite their names, these SPIs not only feed on rice, grain and flour but also on cereal products such as pasta, nuts, coffee, animal feed and dried fruits. Furthermore, SPIs are large breeders. A female rice weevil can lay up to 500 eggs, and hatched larvae feed on the insides of rice grains. This means that rice weevils can build up huge populations in a short time. Unfortunately, once you find one rice weevil, it is likely other storage areas are infected as well due to them being able to fly.

SPI’s life cycle can be completed in 28 days at 30 degrees Celsius, and thrive in humid environments. This makes Malaysia the perfect breeding ground for SPI’s due to our humid climate. To make matters worse, conventional pesticides cannot be used to treat food products due to health and safety issues. Specialist treatment is required such as fumigation of bulk commodities, which requires strict SOP’s and expert knowledge to conduct efficiently and effectively.  

SPIs and Your Business

SPIs are a nightmare to the food processing industry, yet their reign of terror doesn't end there. SPIs also have the potential of infiltrating every industry involved in the food supply chain, regardless if they produce food.

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SPI infestation risks start from the beginning of the supply chain. While the raw material of a food product is being harvested, SPIs will multiply and contaminate entire harvests if the conditions are suitable, making products unusable and hence impacting all other processes down the supply chain.

Moreover, infestations can take place while the raw materials are delivered,  processed at the factory or in finished food products during storage. Any point of the supply chain that requires the food product to be stored away has a risk for SPI infiltration despite being unopened.

Regrettably, when SPIs are found in packets of rice or other products, the company whose name is printed on the packaging gets the blame. The infestation may not have begun in the production stage but perhaps the distribution stage, and yet the end result is the same: fall in consumer confidence and brand avoidance. However there are a few best practices to avoid SPI infestations: regular cleaning, routine checks of incoming stock and products and avoiding consuming food and beverages near machinery can help to prevent re-infestations.

Protecting your business

Food supply chains today are global, elaborate and more complex than ever before, which means SPI control requires a collective effort. SPI preventive measures such as denying entry and monitoring humidity have to be enforced at every stage to result in effective supply chain management.

Stored product insects (SPIs) constitute the pest category that causes the greatest financial losses to food processing companies, according to a survey of 1000 companies commissioned by Rentokil. However, SPIs can be difficult to identify given their small size and habit of eating away at stored products. This is why if you suspect that SPIs are present in your business, there is no time to hesitate. Enlisting a professional to conduct an assessment can save you from spending even more in the future. Solutions such as Rentokil’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can not only help you to eliminate your SPI issues also ensure the issue is properly monitored post elimination to avoid reinfestation. Furthermore, our fumigation services is accredited by Malaysian Plant Quarantine Department (DOA) and recognised by  Malaysia Fumigation Accreditation Scheme (MAFAS) as well as Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).

Don’t let SPIs cost you more. Contact us at 1300 882 911 to schedule a comprehensive inspection or drop us an enquiry today.


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