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Prevent Pests and Please the Health Inspector

By Patrick Copps

Similar to health inspectors, pests can arrive in your restaurant unannounced at any time. Another similarity - both can have a big impact on whether your restaurant remains open or is shut down due to unsanitary conditions or food safety risks. Work with your pest management provider to make sure you and your staff are ready for a surprise visit by taking a few key preventive measures.

It's easy to see why pests can cause a stir if they're found in any part of your restaurant. Rodents, flies and cockroaches, the bane of any food service operation, can contaminate food and cause food-borne illnesses such as Salmonella and E.coli. These diseases don't just harm your customers, but can affect your staff, damage your restaurant's reputation, and lead to legal actions.

health inspector

By paying special attention to pest "hot spots," or places where pests are likely to access or reside in your establishment, you can accomplish the prep work necessary to create a recipe for prevention.

Receiving Areas
Inspect all incoming shipments for signs of pests such as gnaw marks, droppings, or live or dead insects. Cockroaches, especially, are known for "hitchhiking" into restaurants by climbing onto shipments or packaging materials. Inspection tools like black lights can help spot urine and grease-marks left by passing rodents, and flashlights are handy when checking out crates, boxes and pallets. Do not put any shipments into storage before thoroughly inspecting the packaging and contents. If you find any evidence of infested product get rid of it immediately.

Helpful hint: Go a step further and consult with all your vendors to make sure they have the proper pest management precautions in place.

Storage Areas
Dark, damp and free of hustle and bustle, storage areas make the perfect home for pests. There's no need to order off the menu here; they've got access to all of the food and water they need for survival. Monitor these areas continually and make sure to eliminate any odors, food debris or spillage. Remove products from their original cardboard packaging since cockroaches feed off the glue that holds them together and use boxes as harborage. Instead, store supplies in tightly sealed plastic containers. Keep shipments on open-backed stainless steel shelving, at least six inches off the floor and 18 inches from the wall.

Helpful hint: Date and rotate goods on a first in, first out (FIFO) basis to keep older products at the front of the storage area, ensuring no products are left for long periods of time.

The Kitchen
Sanitation is the best line of defense against pests in the kitchen. Remove any excess moisture by quickly repairing any leaking pipes, sinks or dishwashers. Pests only need a small amount of water to survive. Clean up spills in the kitchen immediately to prevent food material from spreading under equipment where it is hard-to-reach or observe pest activity. Never leave dishes in the sink overnight as these can provide a four-course meal for pests that might want a late-night snack. Remove trash daily and more frequently if it contains food waste. Be sure to line all trash containers with disposable plastic liner bags.

Helpful hint: Use an organic "green" cleaner around kitchen and floor drains to break down the tough grease and grime that collects in these areas.

Tie your pest prevention plan together with the proper documentation that will have health inspectors giving you a pat on the back. Review all the necessary forms with your pest management provider and make sure you have service records, corrective action reports, pest activity reports, lists of pesticides used (including how, where and when) and a copy of your pest control operator's license.

Taking the time to put preventive measures in place can not only discourage pests, but also help you prepare for your health inspection. Now, whether announced or unannounced, you won't be surprised when an uninvited visitor comes knocking at your door.

Patrick Copps is Technical Services Manager for Orkin's Pacific Division. A Board Certified Entomologist in urban and industrial entomology, Mr. Copps has more than 35 years experience in the industry. For more information, email Mr. Copps at or visit

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