Running a restaurant is hard work, and to be successful in the industry means being able to juggle multiple competing demands on both your time and your resources. Preventing pests in your restaurant may not, unfortunately, always be top of mind.
A recent report by the SA Restaurant, Fast Food and Catering Industry stated that "independent restaurants remain under pressure, as cash-strapped consumers endeavour to cut back on luxury spending. In addition to dwindling customer numbers, local food and beverages service providers report higher overheads and narrowing profit margins."
Higher overheads and lower profit margins can mean that restaurateurs start looking for more cost-effective ways of running their restaurants. I'm sure many a restaurateur has wondered whether their staff could use a DIY pesticide to deal with restaurant pests.
And that's part of the problem with being the experts - if we do our job properly, you'll think you don't need us. But professional pest control is an essential part of running a successful restaurant and should be taken very seriously.Any evidence of pest activity on your premises - be they pub, bar, cafe, restaurant or takeaway - could seriously jeopardise your reputation. Mice, rats, flies, and cockroaches pose a particular threat to restaurants because of their ability to transmit serious illnesses to staff and guests.
Rules and regulations: what does the law say?
Restaurants and other food-selling establishments need to take food safety regulations very seriously to protect both their reputation and the safety of their customers. All food sellers are subject to Regulation 638: The Regulations Governing General Hygiene Requirements for Food Premises, The Transport of Food and Related Matters, which falls under the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act (Act 54 of 1972).
Professional pest control forms an important part of providing customers with safe food, by keeping disease-spreading pests - and the potentially harmful chemicals used to treat them - out of customers food.
How often food outlets are inspected for compliance with food safety regulations will depend on the Department of Health and the local municipality, however regular hygiene and food safety audits should be done regardless of whether or not the premises are being inspected.
Businesses that sell food are required by law to have a proper food safety programme in place to ensure that food is protected from contamination or spoilage by insects or any other physical, chemical or biological contamination.
If an Environmental Health Practitioner (EHP) finds that a food seller does not meet the required food safety standards, they can refuse to issue the certificate of acceptability which the business requires to operate legally. And were a customer to fall ill after consuming food prepared at a restaurant, the onus is on the restaurant to prove their due diligence in terms of their food safety, or otherwise face a potentially large claim in terms of the Consumer Protection Act.
What to look out for
The pests most likely to be attracted to areas where food is prepared and served are rats, mice, cockroaches, ants and flies. Their presence can have a very negative impact on businesses, as they can carry or spread diseases. Insect droppings, insect fragments or rodent hair can contaminate food, which can lead to lead to customer complaints, loss of goodwill and bad publicity.
Preventing pests in your restaurant
Keeping your restaurant premises clean at all times is the first step towards preventing pest infestations. Every food selling business should have enough bins with tight-fitting lids and these should be cleaned daily. Doors and windows should be kept closed whenever possible. Food should be kept covered and all spillages should be cleaned up immediately. Staff should also be educated about the dangers of pests and how to identify signs of pests.
Safe and compliant pest control
Whilst pests represent a real threat to food safety, pesticides also pose the risk of contamination if not correctly applied. The application of pesticides without causing food contamination requires specialized knowledge. The correct pesticide must be combined with the best method of application, and both should suit the pest and the situation at hand. It often also requires special equipment.
Business owners should only use registered and suitably qualified pest control operators to provide pest control in food premises. Contact your local SAPCA branch or the National Department of Agriculture if you are in any doubt as to whether a company or operator is registered.
To treat pest infestations while preventing the contamination of food, Rentokil recommends the use of gel baits against cockroaches. Fly units should be strategically placed, away from food preparation, serving and consumption areas to prevent contamination. Fly units that electrocute insects should be avoided in food preparation areas. This is because insect fragments and bacteria can spread in several directions. Sprays containing organophosphates should also never be used in food preparation or storage areas.
Call Rentokil on 0861 117 851 for a free survey of your premises, and make sure that only your customers are dining in your restaurant.