The primary focus of any food safety program, and rightly so, is on the temperature of your food product. Heating food to the proper temperature and storing it at the proper cold temperature are vital to preventing contamination. But allowing foreign objects like hair, metal, and insects or pests to contaminate food can be just as much of a food safety headache for your restaurant and making somebody sick.
Pest mitigation should be a regular part of your food safety program – just like checking to make sure chicken breast is cooking at 165 degrees. Fighting pests takes two forms: preventative measures and reactive measures. The goal is to have enough preventative measures in place to minimize or eliminate ever taking reactive measures.
Preventative measures include:
Keep it clean. Pests want to be in your restaurant for two reasons: shelter and food. And while your kitchen will always be a warm and inviting place, you can do a lot to make sure it’s not particularly filling. The standard place to start in your effort to make your kitchen a hungry place for pests is with the trash. Take it out every day, wash out containers regularly, and use a plastic liner.
You’ve already got those bases covered. More important to preventing pest infestation is to make sure everything makes it into the trash that should before you take it out. That means food bits and debris from every corner of the kitchen. It can be easy to miss the many corners and hidden crevices where pest dinner tends to collect, so make sure there is a regular top-to-bottom cleaning schedule with hefty enforcement. This goes for the front of the house as well.
Run a tight ship. The best way to keep pests from making your restaurant their new home is to make it very hard for them to break in. Use caulking, screens, and other patching materials to stop up holes wherever they occur. The most common areas where holes occur are around doors, ventilation systems, pipes, and plumbing installations.
Also make sure particularly sweet or strong-smelling ingredients are stored in airtight ingredient bins to prevent pests from using them for meals and breeding grounds.
Set the trap. After you’ve made your restaurant as inhospitable as possible by storing foods properly, sealing entryways, and cleaning regularly, it’s time to set some traps to catch any brave pests that still insist on making your restaurant their home.
For mice and rats, standard snap traps will work well enough. If you start catching mice and rats, it’s time to investigate further and find out where they’re nesting and how they’re getting into the building.
For insects, an insect control system that uses UV light to attract and trap anything with wings is very effective. The Paraclipse system is an easy-to-maintain way to keep flies and other bugs out of your food and in the trash instead.
In the case of cockroaches, don’t try to solve your problems with cheap residential-strength traps. Call an exterminator right away. Cockroaches are one of the hardiest creatures on earth, and it is going to take several rounds by a professional to eliminate the problem. This will surely be expensive, but all it takes is one cockroach sighting to turn a customer away from your establishment for life.
If you’re vigilant about these preventative measures, then hopefully you’ll never get to the reactive measures stage, which usually involves you, your checkbook, and a licensed exterminator. If you do discover an infestation problem, then address it right away with the help of a professional. The risk to your business is much larger than the expense of extermination.