14 July 2023
Pest Control in any food handling premises is an extremely important process. Food pests are a source of food poisoning organisms. When one talks about pests, the majority of people think of rats, mice, birds, flies, etc. Whilst they are a major food safety hazard from the Pest Control perspective, domestic pets are also a significant hazard. By being pets they are often not considered a danger. However, domestic pets should never be allowed into food handling areas. They carry bacteria in their fur, feathers, skin, saliva and intestines. Stroking or fussing cats, dogs or other pets will contaminate food handlers.
What is a Food Pest
A food pest is an organism that lives on or in human food. Pests can contaminate food with bacteria and disease, but they can also cause physical contamination from droppings, urine, fur, feathers and even dead bodies.
Importance of Pest Control
Pest problems can result in lost revenue through damaged stock, gaining a bad reputation and in some cases legal action against the business.
According to the FSAI News Article from 13th July 2023, 12 Enforcement Orders served on food businesses in June. Some of the reasons for the Enforcement Orders in June include: a history of rodent activity with droppings found near fruit juice intended for children; open, ready-to-eat foods such as fresh lettuce suspected as having come into contact with rodents, with a likely risk of Salmonella; heavy cockroach activity in the kitchen, with dozens of live cockroaches spotted moving around food preparation areas, on the walls, floors, fridges, and inside food storage containers; a lack of adequate traceability systems and procedures for all products, undermining consumer safety; a failure to maintain the cold chain with insufficient fridge space to safely store high risk foods such as cooked rice and pasta; rodent droppings noted in the service area and near food storage; risk of cross contamination with ready-to-eat food such as smoked salmon stored next to raw food such as chicken and pork chops; and inadequate ventilation throughout the premises, evident by the large build-up of mould on the walls, ceilings and external doors.
Premises Maintenance as Part of Pest Control Process
Food premises often provide ideal conditions for pests as they provide food, warmth, shelter and water. It is therefore important to make sure premises are properly maintained to avoid pest infestation.
It should be part of any food handling business’ routine to check for signs of pest infestation. If any kind of pests activity is noticed and reported, this has to be dealt with immediately. It may be necessary to seek professional help from a pest control contractor or a local authority. It is always preferable to treat the problem by removing the pest. This avoids the possibility of it dying inside the food area and causing further contamination. Extreme care should be taken if chemical controls are to be used.
Prevention is better than cure and good housekeeping can play an important role in pest prevention. Some of the steps towards preventing pest infestation are:
- Food should be always stored correctly in pest proof containers and off the floor.
- Storage areas must be easy to clean and allow for easy access to check for signs of pests.
- Food should never be stored outside as this attracts pests.
- Rubbish areas should be kept clean and waste should be kept in bins with tight fitting lids. Untidy waste areas can attract pests by making food easily available.
- Waste areas should be cleared regularly as rubbish can provide shelter, warmth, food and moisture for pests.
- Ensure goods are used within the appropriate date to help prevent problems with stored product pests.
- External water sources such as dripping taps or broken drain pipes can attract pests. These should be properly and regularly maintained.
- Deliveries of goods should always be checked for signs of infestation. delivery should not be accepted if any signs of pests activity can be seen.
- Make repairs as soon as possible to damaged drain covers, door bases or other parts of the building that will allow access to pests.
- Fit insect screens on windows and doors that open directly into food preparation areas.
All pests damaged goods should be removed and destroyed.
Common Food Pests
Common food pests that can be found in almost any, rural or urban setting are:
- Rats and Mice – rats live in sewers or in nests around buildings. In a year one pair of mice and their offspring can produce 2,000 babies if left undisturbed.
- Flies – Land on animal faeces and rotting food, collecting bacteria on the hairs of their bodies. They may fly from food to food causing cross-contamination.
- Cockroaches – They are nocturnal insects. They like warm and dirty places. Eggs take around 2 months to hatch and each egg case may carry between 10- to 30 eggs depending on the species.
- Ants – May be attracted by unprotected food.
- Birds – Birds carry many pathogenic bacteria and can cause significant damage.
- Stored Product Pests – Weevils may be found in flour and other dry goods. They are normally quite harmless in the egg stage, and enter the food during food growth.
Food premises can be (and have been as mentioned above) closed down as a direct result of pest infestation. Pest problems should never be ignored!
Online Food Safety Training
Please remember – it is a legal requirement that staff who are involved in a food environment are trained and/or supervised commensurate with their work activity!
Myelearnsafety offers fully online Food Safety (HACCP) courses.
To find out more, please check our Courses page.
Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email firstname.lastname@example.org