The problem with pests

Rita Abou Obeid, director of Boecker Food Safety discusses a number of steps to make sure pest problems do not get out of control

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By  Rita Abou Obeid Published  December 21, 2006

|~||~||~|There is nothing worse than for a customer to complain that they have seen a rodent or some sort of insect in an eating establishment. Although pests cannot always be avoided, it is important that an outlet does whatever it can to eliminate them. Not only does it reflect badly on a restaurant to have a pest infestation, but also in a number of cases pests are a direct cause for the closure of a food business. Therefore, it is essential that hygiene and sanitation standards are maintained in order to control and prevent pests. However, it is important to know what common pests are and the effect they have. Indeed, of common pests the most prevalent are insects, which includes flies, cockroaches, wasps, moths, silverfish and ants, and also rodents, namely rats and mice. Pigeons and stray cats can also cause problems, especially around garbage areas. Although most of these pests carry and transmit pathogens, others can even cause serious allergic reactions to customers. Not only does their mere presence in food or food preparation areas cause distress and make consumers unhappy, it also makes food unsafe. All food establishments are at risk from the damage caused by pests, but by the time you notice the presence of pests in your premises, some damages may already have been caused, with some pests causing more damage than what you may initially think. For example, rodents are capable of transmitting food poisoning bacteria like salmonella, listeria, and a range of additional viral, bacterial, protozoan and endoparasitic diseases. This can be through direct contact with the food from their contaminated bodies or legs, faecal deposits or by urine. They can also cause physical damage to wires and cables that can lead to fires. Cockroaches on the other hand, are ubiquitous pests, which feed on faeces, human and animal wastes, and then on human foodstuffs, therefore transmitting bacteria like salmonella and staphylococcus. Finally, two other major pests are wasps and flies. Attracted to sweetly scented foods and drinks, a wasp’s danger is in its sting. A fly on the other hand, can cause many problems. Contamination happens with their bodies and webbing, and transmitting pathogens including food poisoning organisms; beans, cereals, flour, dried fruits and some dried meats are among the most susceptible of foodstuffs to infestation. Once you know what diseases pests can transmit, the next stage is to identify the problems to prevent an infestation. A few tips for controlling pests in your premises include sealing cracks and keeping screens closed, closing unwanted openings around drainpipes and vents to make they are rodent and insect proof, keeping food covered and making sure any spills are cleaned immediately. Food products should also be stored 15cms away from walls and floors, and products such as flour and sugar should be removed from its original containers and placed in approved sealed tight containers that are properly labelled and more impermeable to pests. Finally, garbage should be disposed of immediately, and waste bins should be washed daily with hot soapy water. If after all this you still experience some form of pest infestation, then it is vital that you employ a pest controller, but getting the right contractor is very important. A restaurant must make sure the pest controller is a licensed company that has been approved by the pest control section of the government, and they should provide the food establishment with a written contract indicating services, methods and frequency of visits. Additionally, the pest control company must have sufficient resources, not only in terms of trained staff, but also in regards to the necessary equipment to carry out a proper service, and pesticides that comply with existing Municipality regulations. A reputable company will also readily supply you with references, and undertake a complete survey on your property, filing a report of recommendations and actions required. Regardless of the size, a property must be aware of pest control, as even the cleanest kitchen will have problems. However, rather than brushing them under the carpet, facing the issue as soon as a problem occurs is pinnacle, as well as informing staff on hygiene issues, and employing a qualified pest controller.||**||

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