The business of food safety and sanitation auditing has its roots from the business of pest control. In the early 1900s, concerns over food safety came to light when it was discovered that rodents, insects, birds, and other pests, as well as family pets, could adulterate our food supply. Inspections of food processors and food service establishments originally concentrated on pest findings. This activity discovered other activities that needed control, such as building maintenance and structure, employee practices, and overall housekeeping and cleaning.
Many inspection firms started out just being pest control inspectors, and have since expanded to include other areas of their businesses. While today, pest control for a facility’s inspection usually amounts to only 20 to 30 percent of its overall grade or rating, it is still extremely important. Failure of having good pest control usually leads to public exposure, bad publicity, and possible closing of your business.
Insects, rodents, and other pests pose serious problems for food processors and resturarants. They are unsightly to customers, and also damage food, supplies, and the facility itself. The greatest danger from pests comes from their ability to spread diseases, including food borne illnesses.
Keeping Pests Out
The first step in a pest-free environment is the establishment of an integrated pest management program. A successful program uses prevention measures to keep pests out of a food establishment, and uses control measures to eliminate any pests that are present. This program requires the utilization of a licensed pest control operator (PCO) as part of the IPM program. The use of a professional is essential, as they use safe and current methods to control and prevent pests. Waiting until there is a pest problem could become a major problem, as there may already be a major infestation present. The pest management program is considered a prerequisite program for any facility that has a HACCP program in place.
All pests enter any establishment in one of two ways. They enter either through openings within the building itself, or they come in with supplies. For the latter, it is important to have, in place, an incoming goods and trailer inspection program. This program starts with the use of approved, reputable suppliers for all your goods. These suppliers should have in place their own integrated pest management program. A trained receiving employee will check the overall condition of the trailer for any pest evidence, and also check the condition of the good received for pest evidence. All shipments with evidence of pests or signs of infestation must be refused.
Openings, holes, and cracks to the outside of a building allow pests to enter, hide, and start breeding. All windows and vents need to be screened, cracks in floors and walls sealed, all openings to the outside closed when not in use, and holes around pipes filled (see above). Doors to the outside should be self-closing, and gaskets installed on the bottom and sides, if there is visual evidence of any openings.
Eliminate Food, Shelter Opportunities
Pests, as do all living things, require food, water, and shelter to survive. We need to deny them these essentials. A clean and sanitary environment provides little opportunity for food and shelter. A stray pest cannot survive if there is no food or water available. Besides adhering to a comprehensive cleaning schedule, other steps include:
- Garbage storage; keep containers in good condition, clean, and tightly covered in all areas, both outside and inside. Clean up all spills around garbage cans, and wash containers regularly;
- Store all recyclables in clean, pest-proof containers, and away from the building;
- Upon receipt of foods from suppliers, put them away quickly (within 30 minutes), and properly (store all foods at least 6 inches off the floors). Perishable foods must be stored in their proper area (cooler or freezer conditions), and dry storage areas should be 50-70ÞF with humidity at 50 percent or lower. Follow FIFO practices in storing foods;
- Clean up all storage areas frequently, remove food and beverage spills immediately, and clean restrooms and toilets as often as needed.
With the popularity of outdoor dining areas, the same rules apply as with the inside of your establishment, by denying food and shelter opportunities for pests. In addition, the presence of birds, bees and wasps adds additional concerns. You can minimize pest activity with the following: