Jacqui Kennedy, Acting Strategic Director of Place, on what food businesses should do to protect their premises from pests and avoid kitchen nightmares.
Birmingham has great reputation as a foodie city, however busy restaurant kitchens can also be a go-to destination for pests that are sure to put diners off their meals.
Regular cleaning is important but is pointless if a business isn’t properly pest-proofed or regularly visited by pest controllers.
Cockroaches, rats and mice are all drawn to warm spots where there is food, which is why any premises serving food need to have robust systems in place for cleaning, food storage and preparation and regularly undertake pest checks.
Pests can spread bacteria, diseases, droppings, fur and grease throughout a premises onto work surfaces, equipment and crockery, which then come into direct contact with food – and the business’s customers.
When bacteria contaminated food is eaten by customers this can cause food poisoning and symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhoea: affected customers are unlikely to write favourable online reviews!
Rodents are incontinent – they urinate and defecate as they move and eat – so as well as gnawing at packets of food, their excreta can contaminate the surfaces they touch and in doing so risk spreading diseases to anyone eating food prepared there.
Cockroaches are also potential sources of disease and carriers of harmful bacteria, as they can climb up any vertical surface and therefore can access anywhere in the premises to contaminate food.
So to protect a business, daily checks should be carried out to look for evidence of pest activity, ideally using a torch: These should include looking for:
- Holes – even the smallest hole, such as the width of a pencil, serve as an ‘open door’ to pests
- Bodies of dead pests
- Cockroach casings
- Mouse or rat droppings
- Nesting material
- Gnawed packaging
- Dirty smears along floor to wall junctions.
You should not trade if you see signs of pest activity and must act immediately to rectify the problem: it is advisable to close so thorough pest proofing, treatment and cleaning can be completed.
You can contact your local environmental health officer, who will work with you to get your premises up to a satisfactory standard. More information can be found on the environmental health webpage – www.birmingham.gov.uk/environmental-health
The pests and any droppings, egg casing and bodies must be eradicated plus any gnawed packaging or food must be thrown away. Once rid of pests, it is essential to thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces that may have been contaminated.
This should be done regularly and many businesses employ a professional pest control company to ensure these works are completed and checks are made regularly to ensure they remain free of pests… and full of customers!