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.
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.
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.
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:
All pests damaged goods should be removed and destroyed.
Common food pests that can be found in almost any, rural or urban setting are:
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!
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!
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