Identifying the Importance of Pest Control.
Effective pest control is vital in the workplace, especially where food preparation is concerned. Pests can be both a nuisance and an eyesore, as well as a direct threat to the health and the fabric of our buildings (mice chewing through cabling, for example).
Pests spread many forms of disease and harmful bacteria that can lead to food poisoning or threat to life, and often create cross-contamination between human or animal waste and food preparation areas or the food itself.
No matter how good a business, the chances are it will, sooner or later, have to deal with some form of pest infestation, and for this reason, food hygiene regulations state that we must ensure protection and have adequate procedures and processes in place.
Types of Pest.
Pests in the food industry are generally broken down into three groups,
- Rodents such as rats and mice. Rodents are especially dangerous to the food industry as they can live on almost anything we can, and multiply rapidly.
- Insects such as cockroaches, beetles and flies. In nature, insects provide a vital function, disposing of human and animal waste and recycling it back into the food chain. This is not something we want going on in our restaurants, however…
- Birds such as Pigeons, Seagulls, or occasionally smaller species like sparrows. Birds are usually less of an issue in food premises as they tend to be shy, however, they can be emboldened by food shortages, often created by expanding local populations
Signs of Infestation
Often, the signs of an infestation are quickly spotted, although getting rid of it may often be much harder.
Signs could include, but are not limited to;
● Frequent discovery of droppings.
● Nibbled or chewed food packaging or furnishings.
● Discarded feathers/skins/fur.
● Bait taken from traps.
● Greasy streaks/tail tracks along walls or floors.
● Footprints or other tracks.
● Discovery of dead bugs/animals.
● Actual sightings of live vermin.
What to do?
Good housekeeping and hygiene, as well as effective insect exclusion or trapping, is the most effective way to stop vermin entering and gaining a foothold on your premises. It
will also be more evident they are there if your premises is generally tidy and clean as their tracks, feces and the actual vermin will be easier to spot. As is usually the case, prevention is better than cure.
- Fill in cracks in the walls, floors and ceilings that could harbour bugs.
- Fit fly screens over external windows and doors, if needed.
- It’s important to ensure doors fit into their frames snuggly and leave no gaps. This can be accomplished relatively cheaply with the fitting of brush strips to ill-fitting doors.
- Fill in any gaps around external piping, drain covers and cable – remember mice can get through gaps the width of a standard pencil!
- Clean bin areas and bins frequently. Ensure any bins accessible by anything have secure lids. Commercial wheeled bin? Make sure the drainage bung is securely fitted if it has one.
- Make sure to not store food, even if seemingly securely packaged, on the floor.
- The store opened packs of dried food in containers with securely fitted lids.
- Clean up spillages immediately; we should be doing this anyway to practice good health and safety and prevent slips and injuries.
- Regular cleaning rotas that include difficult-to-reach areas.
- Avoid build-ups of disused equipment or packaging.
- Check food packaging for damage.
- Cover toilets and fix any dripping pipes or leaky taps to remove water availability.
- Make sure no stock or waste is left accessible overnight.
- Check incoming deliveries for signs of pest activities.
Finally, we should know the correct procedures for reporting pest issues if we are staff members. If we are the manager it is our responsibility to make sure that these procedures are in place and adhered to.
It’s best practice to set up a pest control contract with a reputable firm, but it is also important to remember that responsibility still lies with the owner of the business; as with any health and safety issue, we can delegate duties but not responsibility.
And If All Else Fails…
The important thing when dealing with pest problems is early identification, meaning the steps above are vital, but what should you do if you discover an infestation?
In the case of Rats, Mice or Cockroaches:
- The business should be closed immediately to protect the health of the customers.
- Contact your pest control contractor, or set a contract up if you don’t have one. It’s important the issue is dealt with by qualified and licensed professionals.
- Contact your local authority or council to report the issue and seek further advice.
- Thoroughly clean the entire premises, paying special attention to disinfecting areas where the infestation had been prevalent. When it comes to whether the stock has been contaminated, go by the rule, “if in doubt, throw it out”. But remember to take extra care whilst working as contamination can easily lead to disease.
- Carry out any maintenance-required tasks identified by your pest controller to make sure you limit the possibility of the infestation returning. If you fail to notify the local authority and are reported or the infestation is discovered by a local environmental health officer, you risk being closed by prohibition order and ordered to pay costs and fines, so it’s always best to report any infestation yourself and take up the services of a professional pest control agency as attempting to eliminate or control the infestation yourself is unlikely to be successful.