Running a restaurant requires strict adherence to health and safety guidelines, which include preventing pests from eating and contaminating the food stored in your kitchen. The way you store and package the food in your kitchen and store rooms can play a major role in either encouraging pests, or in keeping them out.A pest can be defined as anything that has a harmful effect on human health, our food sources, or our living conditions. Many pests compete for our food sources and once they have access to food we face the multiple risks of contamination and disease.
How can storage help, you ask?
Ensuring that food storage and packaging is well-managed can reduce the common pest problems found in restaurants, firstly by not encouraging pests to enter, and secondly by ensuring that if they do enter, they are not encouraged to stay with ready food sources or breeding sites. Below we discuss the 3 most common pests in restaurants, the problems they cause, and how proper food storage can help: these problems.
Let’s face it, flies are one of the most irritating pests around. The life cycle of a fly is short but active, as these pests go through a complete metamorphosis: egg, larvae or maggot, pupal to adult.
The average female housefly will lay between 75 and 150 eggs in one batch, and lays 5-6 batches in her lifetime. If you do the math on this, the reproduction rate of flies is quite alarming, as the house fly is capable of reproducing after just 2 days in optimum temperatures (25 - 30 Degrees) and it takes just 7 days at optimal temperatures for the egg to metamorphosis completely to an adult fly. This means that what started as one fly can very quickly become a serious fly infestation in your restaurant.
So how does your food storage and packaging fit into this?
Flies lay their eggs in moist, warm environments - preferably containing a food source, so that once the eggs hatch the maggots will have organic material on which to feed. This means that any open, raw, or cooked food that is not properly sealed is at risk of becoming a breeding ground for flies.
Flies carry a host of contaminants that are harmful to people. For example, pathogens like Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, Escherichia, Enterococcus Chlamydia - amongst others - are all transmitted by flies.
Designing your food storage to prevent flies from gaining access is imperative: flies are small insects and only need a small gap to gain access to your food. Wherever possible, utilise sealed, airtight containers to combat these issues. Refrigerated food is also less at risk of flies because of the temperature.
Because flies will usually look for dark, moist areas to lay their eggs, try and keep food that has to remain open in a dry, well-lit or refrigerated area. Restaurants need to also keep in mind that customers may wish to take food items away, or even have food delivered, and packaging design for takeaways and delivery should also take pest concerns into consideration. It's your brand image and the way you package your food shows your level of care for your customers.
Cockroaches go through incomplete metamorphosis: egg, nymph, and adult, and the lifespan of a cockroach will vary based on a few factors, including temperature, moisture, availability of food sources and, of course, species. However, to give you an idea of the resilience of this pest, here are some facts about cockroaches:
- A cockroach can live for one month without food
- This pest can survive for 2 weeks without water
- A cockroach can run 4.8 kilometres per hour (This is a fast germ spreader!)
- This pest can live for a week without its head!
Like flies, cockroaches enjoy dark, moist environments. Drains and gutters make the perfect subways for them and this is how they gain access to our homes and businesses. Female cockroaches are able to produce an egg case ( Ootheca) a week after mating, and a single egg case can carry 16 eggs. A female cockroach will produce around 300 - 400 offspring in a lifetime - more than enough to cause a serious cockroach infestation.
And like flies, cockroaches also carry diseases and bacteria that cause illness. Storing and packaging items to combat these concerns are a bit more tricky because cockroaches can chew through plastic wrap, zip-lock bags, paper and thin plastic food containers. Thus storage containers made of thick-wall plastic and glass are more effective against this pest.
It's important to note that cockroaches do not enjoy well-lit areas and will not lay eggs in a high traffic zone, meaning that stock and food items that are in constant movement or rotation are less likely to attract cockroaches.
3. Rodents (rats and mice)
Rodents are pests that really require a number of preventative measures. Rats and mice both have similar reproductive behaviours. A rat reaches sexual maturity only 5 weeks from birth, and the gestation period is only 21 days, with a litter size of between 7 - 14. The worrying part is that if conditions are suitable (sufficient water, food and nesting area), rodents can breed all year round. So once again, what started off as a small problem can very quickly become a full-blown rat infestation.
Rodents are also very resilient creatures; they thrive in dark areas and use the vibrissae on their fur to guide them through tight locations. For rodents, sewers, gutters and almost any location is suitable for travelling, breeding and causing massive damage. Rodents also carry a number of diseases.
Some of the diseases carried by rodents are:Needless to say, rodents cannot be allowed free reign in your restaurant. The most difficult thing about these pests is the amount of damage they cause to packaging. They can chew through just about anything - including steel - which makes controlling them that much harder.
A roundup of these tips to protect your restaurant from pests:
- Open food sources will encourage pests to enter your establishment
- Once they have found an easy source of food, pests will breed, creating more of a problem
- Store food in airtight containers wherever possible to discourage pests
- Refrigerate cooked foods, preferably also sealed in airtight containers
- Glass is your best defence against rodents
- Maintain a stock rotation schedule
- Ask for more recommendations from your pest control provider. Rentokil offers professional pest control services tailored to your restaurant's specific requirements.