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Pests: small in size, but Big in impact

Ensuring food safety by eliminating pest infestations


March 25, 2008
By Dr. Zia Siddiqi

Topics

How important is food safety to your business? According
to market research published by Packaged Facts in October 2005, your
answer to this question should be “very important.”

Ensuring food safety by eliminating pest infestations

mouseHow important is food safety to your business? According to market research published by Packaged Facts in October 2005, your answer to this question should be “very important.”

The report found that 25 per cent of consumers are “highly aware” of food safety issues and take measures to prevent consumption of questionable products. 

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What does this research mean for you? That you should make sure your pizza and menu items are safe!  One integral aspect of food safety involves the prevention of foodborne illnesses. Foodborne illness results from eating food contaminated by pathogens, which include bacteria, fungus, parasites and viruses. While employee sanitation and proper food handling can help prevent contamination, effective pest management is another important but often overlooked component in the fight against food poisoning.

Pests carry a number of diseases that can contaminate your food and threaten the safety of your customers.  In fact, three very common pests all carry diseases that can jeopardize food safety:

Flies – Flies transmit more than 100 known pathogens, including E. coli, salmonella, staphylococcus and shingles. Every time a fly lands, it leaves behind bacteria, threatening food safety.

Rodents – Rodents carry salmonella bacteria in their intestinal tracts, and can contaminate food through bacteria passed in their droppings.

Cockroaches – Cockroaches threaten food safety by carrying a number of organisms and bacteria that can cause food
poisoning, diarrhea and dysentery. Generally, roaches contract these diseases by walking into contaminated environments, and then spread them to other areas. 

Health inspectors and sanitarians alike recommend implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to complement the food safety efforts at your establishment. IPM programs use multiple methods to eliminate and prevent pest infestations, versus relying on pesticides only. Since pesticides too can contaminate food, it’s best to reduce pesticide use wherever possible without compromising the control program. Pesticide spraying in particular should be avoided in food-preparation areas.

The cornerstone of a foodservice IPM program is sanitation. Pests often enter restaurants in search of food and water, which often are easily accessible in such places. Excess food debris, drink spills or standing water in the kitchen and dining area can attract pests and foster infestations, so regular floor cleaning is a must. Quick tip: on average, pests do not need significant amounts of water to survive – condensation from a leaky soda machine or HVAC unit can provide sufficient moisture. Inspect your appliances and repair them if necessary.

Don’t limit sanitation practices to the interior of your facility. Odours emanating from garbage cans and dumpsters can signal to pests the presence of food inside. Quick tip: make sure all garbage cans are securely and tightly lidded, and waste is removed from your property on a regular basis.

In addition to food and water, pests also seek safe and warm shelter. (What better place to live than a warm pizza kitchen?) Especially during the winter months, rats, mice and insect pests often migrate inside to escape the cold. Pests can enter your building through even the smallest holes – mice only need an opening 1.75 cm wide to enter – so seal any unnecessary openings with weather-resistant sealant.  Quick tip: to discourage pests from getting too close to the exterior of your building, trim back the landscaping around your building and install a gravel strip three-quarters of a metre wide around the perimeter. Plants and bushes can provide cover for rodents, and act as a bridge from nature to your establishment for small pests.

The bottom line: pest control is an integral part of your food safety program. Work with your pest management professional to develop the program that is right for you, so you don’t have to worry about the safety of your pizza. •


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