PUBLISHED ON May 5th, 2012
While pest control in food industry facilities is in many similar to pest management in the home, the health and financial risks can be much higher for fast food restaurants if proper precautions are not taken. Public health, reputation, effective management, and the sensitive and demanding nature of food processing pose unique challenges for a fast food establishment’s pest management efforts. Due to the public nature of these restaurants, a more rigorous and creative approach must be taken in order to combat pests.
Sanitation. Public health is a primary concern in fast food restaurant pest control, and simple mistakes can have drastic consequences. Fast food employees must work quickly under high-pressure conditions, which means insects can be accidentally processed into the food or merely contaminate food with their feces or saliva. Flies and cockroaches account for 95 different kinds of bacteria and human diseases between them, potentially passing E. coli, staph or even food poisoning on to customers. And due to the high volume of customers many fast food establishments serve, a single source of contamination can spread to many people in a relatively short period of time.
Reputation. For a fast food chain, reputation is everything. A familiar, reliable product is what keeps customers keep coming back; however, if they feel their safety has been compromised, the breach of trust can result in damaging backlash. A well -known name can be easily tarnished due to even a temporary lapse in fast food restaurant pest control.
Comfort and safety. The importance of offering a safe and comfortable environment for customers can limit the pest control methods available to fast food establishments. Pest control in food industry settings can be a delicate matter, as harmful chemicals can permeate the air and contaminate food prep areas, posing a health risk to consumers. Alternatively, visible pest control such as insect catchers, bait or traps might warn customers away. Efficient pest control in restaurants requires the use of effective but unobtrusive methods.
Educate staff. Make sure managers and food handlers are properly informed about the risks of pests. Provide checklists and a means of keeping track of machine and utensil servicing. Tell them what to look out for in the case of a pest infestation, such as dirt tracks or eggs; common materials used for nesting; or the presence of insignificant-looking insects. Infestations can go unnoticed for a long time before they become a problem. Give staff the tools and awareness to nip pest problems in the bud.
Conduct regular pest inspections. In order to determine potential problem areas, inspect the facility on a monthly basis. Keep track of the date and time of inspections; temperature in the food processing environment as well as outside; building integrity issues; and general sanitation practices. Record where, if any, problem areas exist – including frequently wet or contaminated surfaces and proper sanitation practices. Check and repair vents and screens and make sure air intake and circulation systems are properly powered and maintained. Make frequent inspections a routine, or have a restaurant pest control provider do them for you.
Keep everything as clean, dry and inaccessible as possible. Without water, food or a way in, pests are powerless. Anything from improperly cleaned food processing equipment to leaky garbage bags or cans can lead to pest infestations. Pay special attention to the dumpster area, as this can be a big draw for rodents.
Choose your restaurant pest control provider wisely. Research the company to see how long they have been in business. Ask about their public profile and determine how many commercial clients they have. Be sure to ask what times of day you can access their services in order to limit potential public exposure. Research the methods or chemicals they employ, and seek data on possible harmful effects on customers and employees.
In the event of a pest management issue, newer products offer many alternatives. Undetectable liquids, waterproof dust formulations, insect growth regulators and special foams and baits can be applied to cracks, crevices and entryways. Most of these technologies are undetectable and are easily dispersed by the pests to other unreachable areas. Remember, however: Pest prevention is easier and more dependable than eliminating an infestation after the fact.