Controlling Pesky Pests
Pest control is a serious problem, but pests are a major source of customer complaints to environmental health departments and also the most common reason for a statutory closure of a food business. Could Integrated Pest Control be the solution for this common problem?
Food businesses employ the services of pest control contractors to inspect, monitor and treat infestations. However this risk is reduced further by taking a more robust approach to the problem.
Integrated pest management is more than just employing the services of a pest control contractor. This is an effective long-term prevention and eradication strategy based on the biology of pests and how they interact with the environment.
Choosing a suitable site for new business is extremely important. Making the wrong decision could lead to a pest problem before you’ve even opened the business. Derelict buildings, poor waste management and readily available sources of water nearby will invariably attract pests that could enter your premises.
Good premises design and regular maintenance are key factors in denying access to pests. A small mouse can enter the premises through a hole as small as 6mm, so all access points should be proofed and damage to the structure repaired immediately. Food waste must be sited at least 10 metres from the building, keeping pests at a distance.
Food deliveries are a route into your premises. Only use nominated suppliers and always check for signs of pest activity when accepting a delivery.
Denying access will invariably reduce the risk, but it will not eliminate the problem entirely and it’s possible that pests may enter the premises at some point. However, there’s a big difference between the occasional visitor and a stable population. The right environmental conditions could lead to growth of an established population. During their life spans a cockroach can produce 150 young and the common housefly can deposit 600 eggs, although mice win the breeding competition. In one year a pair of breeding mice can produce of over 2,000 young!
Good housekeeping is a simple, inexpensive and effective method of environmental pest control. Cleaning, storage of food stuffs in pest proof containers and correct disposal of food waste will significantly reduce sources of food and harbourage (security and shelter).
Some environmental controls won’t work and in those cases drastic measures are needed. Physical and chemical methods of control are usually the last resort and should only be used when more human methods are ineffectual.
Chemical methods include the use of insecticides and rodents, but there’s concern about these chemicals entering the food chain, their impact upon local wildlife and rodent resistance to warfarin and other similar compounds. It’s important for the manager to know the location of bait boxes and to have a description of the chemicals used.
Physical methods include electric fly killers, spring and live traps, sticky boards and mist netting. The UV bulb on an electronic fly killer degrades rapidly should be changed every 6-12 months. It should not be sited by near competing source of UV light and over food preparation areas.
Pest control training needs to be an essential part of any integrated pest management strategy. Training should focus on key topics, including why pests are a problem; environmental, physical and chemical controls; monitoring, including the signs of pests and corrective actions.
It’s reality that most businesses rely on the expertise of a competent pest control contractor. Selecting the right contractor will save money and reduce the risk of pests. You should consider:
Will the contractor provide an initial survey with clear recommendations and action required? What experience does the contractor have within the food industry? Can the contractor meet the service level required by the food business? Can the contractor provide suitable client references? Is the contractor a member of a professional trade association (e.g. British Pest Control Association)? Do employees hold a recognised pest control qualification of proficiency? Can the contractor demonstrate knowledge of COSHH, risk assessments and safety data sheets? Is the service provided value for money?
Finally, a competent pest contractor will offer advice on prevention, rather than recommending more visits or expensive eradication solutions.
Management has a critical role in overseeing a pest control strategy. Responsibilities will include liaising with the pest control contractors and following any necessary recommendations. Other duties might include checking internal monitoring records, pest awareness training and maintenance requests.
The manager should also conduct a review to establish whether the current strategy is effective and the best value for money