Controlling pests is important for moral, legal and financial reasons. They can spread disease by contaminating food and surfaces, damage to property, loss in revenue, harm to brand reputation, prosecution and closure. Negative press in national newspapers can destroy customer confidence and seriously reduce sales. A restaurant is not going to survive when a story hits the press about its customers leaving half eaten meals and fleeing due to a cockroach infestation in the kitchen. In a digital age of social media these stories can viral and are never forgotten. Failure to control pests can also lead to huge fines for food business operators. Large fines in the press include: £105k for a pub in Birmingham, £500k for a health food store in Knightsbridge, London and £644K for a supermarket in Park Royal, London. These large fines reflect changes in sentencing guidelines where larger organisations could face huge fines based on turnover.
Pest management is a practical risk-based HACCP prerequisite that excludes, restricts and destroys pests. Environment, physical and chemical methods controls must consider the biology and behaviour of pests. Physical and chemical methods do have a place in controlling pests, but are not always effective. The rise of genetically mutated ‘super rats’ that are immune to poison are on the rise. Reports suggest that up to 70% of rats are resistant to poisons in some parts of the country, including South of England and West Country. Environmental controls are fairly inexpensive and effective in controlling pests. They deny access, food and harbourage. Care in design, maintenance and proofing of a food premises will significantly reduce the risk of a pest infestation. Good house-keeping, such as cleaning and food kept in pest proof containers, will deny pests food, water and shelter.
Food handlers can deny access to pests by visually inspecting a delivery, remove conditions for harbourage, and report early signs of an infestation. They should be trained in how to reduce the risk and how to spot the signs of pest.
When choosing a pest control contractor is important ensure they are competent in dealing with pests in food environment. The contractor should conduct an initial survey to evaluate the risks and recommended appropriate controls. These should not just be physical and chemical methods, but suggestions on how to improve pest proofing and priorities for premises maintenance. Reports should be discussed with the contractor and kept in accessible place ready for inspection by an Environmental Health Officer.
Percipio Training offer a wide range of accredited food safety courses that encourage food handlers to think about preventative measures to control pests. These include courses in food safety, HACCP and effective auditing and inspection skills.
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