In the foodservice industry, image and reputation is everything. Whether the kitchen is in a 5 star restaurant, deli, retirement center or nursing home, keeping the kitchen spotless is critical for food safety. One of the key components for food safety in the kitchen is pest control. Prevention is of upmost importance when discussing pest control. It only takes one pest to cause a foodborne illness or even worse.

First on every operators list must be to: Deny access to the operation. Pests are uninvited guests. Pests can be brought inside with deliveries or through building openings. Check all deliveries before they enter your operation. Refuse any shipments in which you find pests or signs of pests. Make sure all of the points where pests can access the building are secure. Screen all windows and vents, and patch or replace them when needed. Seal cracks in floors and walls and around pipes. Install air curtains above or alongside doors.

Number two on the pest control prevention parade is to: Deny shelter. Clean, clean and more cleaning. This cannot be stressed enough. Careful cleaning eliminates the pests’ food supply and destroys insect eggs. Throw out garbage quickly and correctly. Keep garbage containers clean and in good condition. Keep outdoor containers tightly covered. Make sure to store recyclables in clean, pest-proof containers. Keep them as far away from your building as regulations will allow. Store all food and supplies correctly and do it as quickly as possible. Keep food and supplies away from walls and at least six inches off the floor. Also remember to clean up food and beverage spills immediately, including crumbs and scraps.

Common pests are mice which carry numerous diseases. Mice only need the opening of the size of a dime to enter a facility. And remember mice can quickly multiply. Rats only need the size of a quarter to invade your operation and they carry serious diseases. Flies carry billions of bacteria at one time. They carry E. coli and Salmonella just to mention a few. Flies also have no chewing mechanism so to soften food they vomit on it. One fly in your operation is one too many. Cockroaches scatter when exposed to light. They can survive a month without food if needed. They often eat the glue on cardboard boxes as a special treat! Cockroaches carry many bacteria on their body. Lastly be careful with birds as bird droppings can contain serious illnesses. Bird droppings can be carried in on shoes or clothes so be aware and clean as needed to remove these droppings.

Even the most conscientious effort can be made and pests can still make their way into your operation. If the pests still arrive without an invitation, you must work with your pest control operator to get them under control. Remember pests leave signs, letting you know they are there. Keep your eyes peeled for feces, nests, and damage on products and packaging. Pests carry diseases and bacteria and need to be kept out of the foodservice operation at all times.