Say Goodbye to Ghastly Guests

Food establishments attract the most pests, which puts your company at a higher risk for an infestation. Taking proactive steps might help prevent one altogether.

Pests and rodents can be a big challenge for businesses in the food industry. Why? Because your business possesses the one thing that attracts rodents and other pests: food. Health inspectors will hound you to resolve pest problems if they find any signs of pests in your building. So, how can you prepare for the most painstaking inspection in the food industry – pest management?

First off, it is imperative to understand how the pests are getting into your structure. Pests will enter through almost any place they can squeeze into. Crevices as big as a quarter are just as convenient of an entry point for rodents as an open front door.

Windows, loading docks and crates from incoming shipments are also methods of entry for rodents. So, putting up barriers to entry is necessary to make it impossible for vermin and insects to enter a structure.

Block the Entrances

Here are some techniques you can implement into your pest management program to keep pests from entering through these target areas:

  • Doors: Automatic doors ensure that doors will be closed when not in use, thus preventing pests from entering unnoticed. Door sweeps at the bottom of the door maintain a tight seal between the door and the ground, hindering unwanted guests from squeezing into the structure.
  • Windows: A No. 16 wire mesh should cover windows with weather stripping to seal the gaps around the window frame to keep out rodents and smaller pests. Keep all windows and doors closed during non-business hours.
  • Cracks and openings: All entries as big as a quarter should be covered with copper mesh combined with a sealant. Holes in the building where water pipes enter the structure should be carefully sealed, as this is a popular entry point for rats.
  • Loading docks and entrances: Install strip doors or curtains on loading entrances to hold back rodents while deliveries are being made.
Attract Customers, Not Pests

Now, once all entrances into your building are pest-proofed, you must also consider spots where pests can nest outside of your building. Applying best practices in pest management techniques will make your business less welcoming to pests.

First, keep landscaping, including trees and bushes, trimmed to about 2 feet away from the structure. Also, thin out thick bushes, as they are a perfect home for rodents since they provide decent covering from rain and sunlight.

To keep flying pests from swarming near people entering and exiting your establishment, put all fluorescent lights away from the restaurant. Fluorescent lights attract bugs and should only be used on light poles in parking lots. Sodium vapor lights are best to deter pests from light fixtures attached to the sides of the building.

Spotting an Invasion

Now that you know how pests can enter a structure and the potential risk they cause to your business, you will need to keep an eye out for signs of a pest infestation. The first and most obvious sign of an infestation is spotting the pest inside or around the structure of the building.

The general saying is, “If you spot a rat at night you are probably housing at least one rat, but if you spot a rat during the day, rodents are taking over.” The reason is rats are nocturnal creatures and will usually come out of their nests to collect food and water at night and rest during the day. If rats are roaming the structure during the day, the nest has probably become overcrowded causing some of the population to search for other areas to nest in your building.

What is that Smell?

Another sign of a rodent infestation is the scent of a musky odor. Areas that have become saturated with urine will also permeate a foul smell. Common areas to find urine and droppings from rodents are in the building insulation and near food and water sources. Underneath sinks or near leaking water pipes are common areas because the moisture satisfies rats’ requirement of at least an ounce of water daily to survive. Other rodents need similar daily quantities to satisfy their thirst.

Ants are also attracted to moist areas. Carpenter ants are the most common pest problem in the United States. They will generally leave signs of sawdust and droppings underneath crawlspaces if they have infested your place. Costly structural damage can occur from housing carpenter ants.

Close the Roach Motel

Cockroach infestations can be determined by spotting their nests. How­ever, they are usually hidden inside walls and other unnoticeable areas.

A sure sign that roaches are planning to make your business their new home is when you see groups of them on consecutive days.

Aside from being a major public health code violation, roach infestations make for an unsanitary environment and are a disturbing sight to your employees and visitors.

Make sure your staff is aware of signs of pest infestations so there are continual roach inspections during operating business hours.

DIY Pest Control

If a pest infestation is present in your restaurant or store, you will want to take immediate action to remedy the problem. Calling a professional pest control company or scanning the Web (pun intended) for useful information to tackle the pest problem yourself are probably the most common responses.

Do-it-yourself techniques can be effective, but chemicals should be carefully distributed and correctly enforced to avoid danger to food, staff and customers. You can use physical and chemical pest control methods to eliminate your pest population. Although physical pest control products are the preferred choice in the food industry, they are not the most effective. However, you will significantly reduce the danger imposed to the people working and dining in your establishment with physical pest control products.

Physical pest control products include rodent traps, glue boards, bird screens, electric pest strips and pheromone traps. Physical pest control products generally kill the rodents on the spot; keeping these devices away from places where food is packaged or stored can prevent food contamination. Baits such as peanut butter on the rodent traps will effectively attract rodents.

Unfortunately, heavy infestations will not be cured by physical pest control mechanisms. Chemical pest control products, such as pesticides, insecticides, rodenticides and fumigates, will need to be put in place to wipe out larger pest problems.

Please use caution when broadcasting pest control chemicals in a restaurant or a store. Consulting a professional pest control technician before you distribute chemicals will significantly help to reduce the risk of food contamination and poisonings to your staff and guests.

Always on the Lookout

Whichever route you take in implementing pest control products, it is still the responsibility of everybody to maintain a flawless pest management program. The program should be enforced every workday since a pest invasion is possible at any time. However, rodents are more likely to invade a building during colder months.

Your pest management program should be a part of your daily routine to ensure that the daily operations of your business are not attracting and inviting pest/rodents into your building. Following these seven procedures in conjunction with physical or chemical pest control products will optimize your overall pest control program.

  • Keep all food secure. When storing food, make sure it is in packaging or a sealed container in the refrigerator, freezer or pantry. Dry foods should be kept off the ground in a sealed place.
  • Keep all surfaces clean. At the end of a job task and workday, wipe any surfaces or work stations that come in contact with food with disinfectant spray. Make sure all countertops and workstations are made of a nonporous material so food debris does not get stuck in surfaces.
  • Line and clean trash receptacles. Line trash cans with plastic bags to help with cleaning the inside of the bucket. Make sure there are secure coverings on the receptacle to prevent pests such as flies from entering. The trash should be disposed of at the end of the workday. Wash the garbage cans daily with soap and warm water to clean any food or drink residue.
  • Clean all liquid spills. If a syrupy liquid is spilled, clean the area with soap to clear residues and to avoid attracting pests. Fix leaks from ice machines immediately as this can be a perfect water source for rodents.
  • Reduce the clutter. Everything – dishes, pots, pans, supplies, etc. – should be off the floor by at least three feet up to eliminate living spaces or places for pests to hide. This helps with cleaning the entire floor area and prevents pieces of food from being hidden under an object. In addition, a dim light left on in the workspace could help your pest control plan since typical pests prefer to stay away from lighted areas.
  • Monitor rodent traps. Make sure the traps have not been triggered and the bait still remains on top. Initially, rodent traps should not be engaged when you first install them. Rodents will be skeptical of the trap at first, so apply the bait on the trap without engaging the snap bar to tempt them into taking the bait. After a few days, you can load the snap bar. Also, if the positioning of the traps is not catching rodents, you might try placing them in different areas to see where they are most effective.
  • Continue to inspect the building for holes. After a complete rodent proof, you will need to inspect the areas you covered up and keep an eye out for new crevices or openings.

This procedure is not required on a daily basis but should be considered a monthly task. If you are a tenant in a complex, inform the other tenants of your plan to keep pests out and try to form a unified pest management program throughout the complex. Contact the property manager for any current pest control techniques in place.

Nationwide Invasion

Let’s face it – if you are in the food industry it is extremely difficult to keep an environment completely pest-free. Many foodservice businesses around the nation are being closed by the health department due to health codes being violated by pest infestations. A public health inspector can issue huge fines and possibly shut down the business if pests are present in the building.

In the United States, there have been more reports of pest infestations in restaurants that are connected to multiple units than standalone structures. The reason is most of the other tenants in the complex are not in the food industry and do not take as extreme measures to keep pests out as foodservice businesses. Once the pest is inside one of the units, it can easily get to the other units easily, and the unit with food is where they will want to nest.

The last thing you want is an unwelcome, nonpaying guest to stop in for a bite to eat. With the entire staff practicing good pest control management procedures, your ultimate goals will be accomplished: happy customers and content public health inspectors.

Derek Roach, is the copywriter and multimedia marketer for Pro Pacific Pest Control, which has provided effective pest and rodent control solutions to the food industry in southern California since 1997. For more information, visit www.propacificpestcontrol.com.

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