Pest infestations cost businesses money. Pests damage and contaminate food, gnaw through electrical cables and cause disease. As a business proprietor it is your responsibility to deal with pests effectively.
The three main groups of pests that are encountered in businesses are:
- Rodents - mice and rats
- Insects - cockroaches, beetles, ants and flies
- Birds - pigeons, seagulls
Pest proofing your premises
The best way to deal with pests is to ensure that that cannot get into your premises, which is possible in almost all cases. Even if you do not have a current pest problem, measures must be taken to ensure that pests cannot enter the premises.
All gaps should be sealed using a hard, gnaw resistant material. Cement, mortar, hard filler, brush strips and fine gauge wire mesh are the best examples of materials that should be used to seal gaps. Spray foam is often used to fill gaps because it is quick and easy to apply in an emergency, however foam should not be used as a long term solution as mice and rats can easily gnaw through it.
The most common ways that rodents can enter a business are:
- Gaps under external doors - the most common way that mice and rats enter is to squeeze under gaps under doors. Fitting a brush strip on the bottom of the door will seal the gap effectively.
- Gaps around pipes and cables - make sure there are no gaps around pipes or cables when they pass through external walls. Make sure work is checked after contractors finish any job involving pipes or wires going through external walls.
- Gaps hidden by suspended ceilings - always check any suspended ceilings as there are usually cables and pipes running through walls that cannot be seen.
- Doors and windows left open - not usually a problem during the day, as activity will scare the mice and rats away. Pest screens can be fitted to doors and windows that are left open regularly.
- Uncovered drains and dry toilets - keep all drains covered and keep a water seal on toilets. If a toilet is not used, consider having it removed and seal the pipe.
- Broken drains - the most common way that rats escape the sewer is through broken drains. If you are experiencing a rat problem then a broken drain is the most likely source of the rats, and you should inspect and repair as necessary. In extreme cases a survey may be required.
Advice specific to food businesses
Businesses must ensure that the layout, design, construction and size of food premises shall permit good food hygiene practices, including protection against cross contamination between and during operations by external sources of contamination such as pests.
The regulations also require that adequate procedures be in place to ensure pests are controlled. This does not mean that you have to have a pest control contract, but it does mean that you must have procedures in place to control pests. This could include periodic visual checks checking for pest activity and regularly checking whether the premises is pest proof.
Setting up a pest control contract is good practice, but remember that the ultimate responsibility for any pest problem lies with the proprietor of the food business. It is therefore recommended that you accompany a pest control company when they check your premises and lay bait so that you can see any potential problems and that you have a full understanding about where the bait is laid.
If you have carried out your checks and found signs of pest activity then it is important that you immediately seek the help of a professional company. Laying of baits and poisons should be left to the professionals. Commercially available baits are not adequate for use in food businesses and can be a source of food contamination.
Remember that domestic animals are classed as pests in food businesses and should be kept out of food areas.
Mice and rats will eat food debris from the floor and refuse that is not placed into sealed bins. Even when baits have been placed, if food debris is available to the rodents they will eat the debris and leave the bait in most cases. Remember that one mouse only has to eat the equivalent of one pea per day to survive.
It is particularly important to ensure that food debris does not build up under and behind equipment. It is these dark, hard to see places that rats and mice prefer, so keep them debris free. This can be achieved by employing a 'clean as you go' policy so that if a spillage occurs, it is cleaned up immediately.
Ensure that all foods are covered when not in use and kept off the floor to discourage rodents from eating them. It is also a good idea to stack food a few inches away from walls so that the gap may be inspected for signs of rodents and to discourage the shy pests from hiding behind the food.
Good hygiene practice is essential in the control and prevention of cockroaches, such as removing any food and water from areas. All food should be kept in airtight storage jars and any food debris or waste should be cleared up straight away following a clean as you go policy.
Cockroaches can survive longer on just water as opposed to just food so reducing supplies to water is essential in controlling cockroaches. Fix any leaks to pipes, provide ventilation to moist areas, mop up any spillages, do not leave washing up soaking overnight and empty refrigerator overflow containers.
The next step is to start to reduce potential harbourage in the areas that are most infested. Clutter such as loose wallpaper, and broken tiles, cookery books and loose papers make a perfect home for cockroaches so removing these is very important.
Any holes, cracks or crevices must be blocked, painted or sealed shut bearing in mind that the young of the German cockroach can fit in a gap of less than 1mm. Before starting, these areas should be washed to eliminate any eggs, food material or waste that has accumulated. Any furniture suspected of harbouring cockroaches can be steam cleaned if appropriate.
Vacuuming regularly, especially in out of the way areas can suck up cockroaches, their eggs and the material they feed on. The dust in the bag should clog up the breathing apparatus of any cockroaches but to make sure, seal the dust bag in a sealed plastic bag and remove it from the premises.
What to do if you have a pest infestation
The earliest you identify a pest infestation, the easier it is to deal with. This is why it is important that you carry out frequent checks of your premises and ensure you act immediately.
If signs of a pest infestation are found we recommend the following steps are taken to ensure that there is no risk to the health of your customers and to remove the infestation.
- Temporarily shut the business until the mice, rats or cockroaches have been effectively cleaned from food storage, preparation and service areas and any affected food and packaging has been removed.
- Engage a qualified, competent person to survey the premises and carry out such treatment as is necessary to remove the infestation. This means that you should call your pest control contractor or set up a pest control contract if you do not already have one.
- Contact the food team to report the problem and gain further advice.
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect all equipment and surfaces that may have been contaminated by pests, including the floor. Care should be taken when cleaning as pest contamination can cause disease. Disposable gloves should be worn.
- Clean away all rodent droppings, dead cockroaches and cockroach egg cases from the premises.
- Keep all food off the floor in sealed containers that are not accessible by pests.
- Check your premises for any holes or gaps and block them off with a hard, gnaw resistant material.
- Fill all small crevices that may harbour cockroaches.
- Fix leaky taps, cover toilet and deny all access to water to pests.
Hygiene in food establishments
We inspect food outlets through routine visits or in response to complaints, with unannounced, on the spot inspections. If pest activity is detected by an Environmental Health Officer at your premises and you have not already made the food team aware of the situation, you risk the business being closed by a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Action or may be asked to voluntarily close the business until works have been carried out.
If you are concerned about a food establishment contact the food team.
Duty of Care
Some pests can also be attracted by loose waste which they use as a food source. All commercial and domestic waste must be stored correctly, to avoid leaking.
For information and advice on these issues, please contact the enforcement team on (01283) 508576, email them on email@example.com.