The typical foodservice facility provides an environment that supports pest populations. Pests, whether rodent or insect, need three essential conditions to survive—food, shelter and water. All are readily available in restaurants. Pests are constantly introduced into a restaurant through the delivery of paper goods, food product, linens, customers and employees. Food odors and food waste are constant attractions to insects, rodents and birds.

Consider this scenario: A dishwasher notices a cockroach on the floor just beneath the three-compartment sink. When he reaches down to remove the cockroach, he sees several grease-saturated boxes on the floor with built-up food debris behind the boxes. When he moves one of the boxes, hundreds of cockroaches scatter across the floor and up the walls.

Right under everyone’s noses, sinister, disease-carrying cockroaches have been harboring and breeding in this area for weeks or months. The sink supplied the water, the boxes provided the shelter and the food-residue buildup provided the nutrition. By the time the cockroach was seen, the population had already reached a dangerous level. Insects prefer messes.

A pest management professional should make specific inspections and recommendations to you concerning potential pest-problem conditions. Chemical applications should be performed only by the professionals who know what they’re doing. Pest management represents a combination of nonchemical and chemical procedures. To monitor your efforts, inspect and evaluate your operation using a pest control self-inspection checklist, which might include the following:

• Are storage areas clean and free of clutter?
• Are floors and areas under shelving clear?
• Are areas under equipment free of debris and food buildup?
• Are areas behind and beside kitchen equipment free of debris and food buildup?
• Are floor drains inspected and properly cleaned?
• Is food stored in pest-proof containers?

Building structure
• Is your building pest proof?
• Are there leaks, standing water or water damage?
• Do doors fit tightly?
• Are windows screened?
• Are doors self-closing?
• Are pipe runs sealed from the outside?

Garbage area
• Are the garbage containers located directly outside your service door? If so, is your service door protected with either an air curtain or screen door?
• Is the area kept clean and free of garbage on the ground?
• Are your garbage containers on a solid surface, with no place for rodents to burrow?
• Are the containers kept clean and closed to deter flying insects and pest birds?

Evidence of pests
• Are droppings present?
• Is food product being damaged?
• Is any odor present?
• Is nesting material evident?
• Has rodent activity left grease marks?

Communication
• Is there an appropriate level of communication and cooperation between you and the pest control operator?
• Does the pest control company provide useful information?
• Do you relate your observations to the provider, either directly or through a service log?

No silver bullet ensures food safety or pest control. HACCP represents an approach to food safety that combines science with common sense to help prevent food handling errors. Similarly, integrated pest management represents a combination of nonchemical (common sense) and chemical (science) strategies that create the most effective pest control program that corrects, anticipates and prevents pest-related problems in the foodservice operation.

Steven Sklare, REHS, CP-FS, LEHP, is a ZEP food safety consultant who has been working in the food industry for more than 20 years performing supply chain risk management, food safety audits and training, food safety management plan design and pest control services. Reach him at steven.sklare@zep.com.