Canadian Pizza Magazine

Guest Column: December 2013

By Alice Sinia PhD   

Features Business and Operations Staffing

How to keep pests out: Train your staff to recognize the signs of pests

Any way you slice it, pests are an unwanted topping in the foodservice industry.

Any way you slice it, pests are an unwanted topping in the foodservice industry. Unfortunately, the bountiful food, water and shelter available in restaurants and other food facilities provide an ideal environment for pests like flies and rodents.

Your team of staff is the front line of defence against pests and should be trained to protect your business from these unwelcomed customers. Few experiences will cause a restaurant to lose a customer faster than the presence of pests. Aside from insinuating filth, pests can transmit diseases, cause illness and result in health violations and possible litigation.

Recognizing pest problems early on and being proactive is crucial to maintaining a clean, safe and pest-free atmosphere. Staff can help prevent pest infestations by learning how to recognize signs of pest activity and how to keep them from getting into and contaminating your facility.


Certain pests can be stealthy, but knowing what to look for will give your employees a better chance of catching them early on. Cracks, crevices, and holes in the baseboards and walls of your facility are a few signs. Crumbs and spills left on surfaces are an open invitation to pests.

Many bugs prefer to make their appearance at night when your facility is quiet; regardless, they often leave behind signs of their presence, including droppings, frass body fragments, trails, gnaw marks and greasy rub marks on floorboards. Staff should be trained to look for these signs and to notify management if they come across them or if they see any of the below pests common to the foodservice industry.

Flies plague every part of the world except the polar ice caps. They have the potential to leave behind bacteria every time they land and transmit more than 100 pathogens, including e. coli, salmonella, staphylococcus and shingles. For every fly seen, there are an estimated 19 more hidden from view.

Rodents’ instincts make them difficult to control. Rodents can transmit more than 35 diseases and carry salmonella bacteria in their intestinal tracts. Bacteria passed in their droppings or body fluids can contaminate food.

Cockroaches are nocturnal, so if you’ve seen one, you probably haven’t seen them all. They pick up micro-organisms from contaminated environments and spread them to other areas. The pathogens they transmit can cause food poisoning, diarrhea wand dysentery.

In an industry that’s appetizing to pests and people, preventing pest problems rather than reacting to them saves time and money, and protects your brand. Implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) approach is the most economical way to protect your facility from pests. This process uses only chemical treatments to handle pest problems as a last resort, which is better for your company, customers and the environment.

An IPM program focuses on proactive measures to prevent pests, such as sanitation and facility maintenance. Taking small steps to increase sanitation, such as cleaning up spills immediately and keeping trash where it belongs, goes a long way in pest prevention. Create a sanitation plan if you don’t already have one and assign roles to staff so everyone knows what they’re responsible for. Inspect your facility regularly for potential pest entry points and exterior attractions such as overgrown lawns or flowerbeds. Close entry points found and maintain a well-managed landscape. As part of an IPM approach, a pest management professional will also come to your business to educate and train your staff on how to keep pests out of your hair and off of your dough.

You are in the business of serving people, not pests: implementing an IPM approach and training your staff to identify and communicate potential pest problems as soon as they are spotted will ensure it stays that way.


Alice Sinia, PhD is the quality assurance manager of regulatory and lab services for Orkin Canada. Sinia focuses on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 10 years of experience, she performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. For more information, e-mail Sinia at or visit .

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