How to ensure it is not YOU in the Media due to Public Health Inspection Closure
By: Steven Graff H.BSc., Quality Assurance Manager, Abell Pest Control.
Posted on: 2/13/2012 12:00:00 AM

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CLOSED DUE TO INADEQUATE PEST CONTROL! These words invoke fear, embarrassment, and guilt not just in the Food Service Industry, but also in the Pest Management provider. Restaurants, retail stores, hotels, and other businesses involved with food service are under constant scrutiny by Public Health Inspectors to ensure that their premises are well managed and free of pest infestation. Public Health Inspectors play an important role in making sure the public is protected from disease and food borne pathogens, something that rodents, birds and insects can readily spread. It is the responsibility of the Food Service Industry and Pest Management Professionals (PMPs) to work together in providing safe food premises thus ensuring pubic health.

Spoiled Food

Typically closures of a food premise are triggered when:

  1. A Public Health Inspector conducts a regularly scheduled inspection of the premise and finds established rodent or cockroach activity and/or contaminated food or food contact surfaces, or
  2. A member of the public or a store employee reports pest activity to the Public Health Department with the subsequent inspection verifying the report.

What the Food Service Industry can do to prevent Public Health inspection closure:

  • Ensure response to pest activity is adequate. When the presence of pests is known by the PMP the control approach must be sufficient to crash the population quickly. Where the response is inadequate the infestation and risk of closure will be prolonged or even worsen as the population grows larger between service visits. An effective pest management program will identify pest presence through inspection and a network of monitoring devices, with additional action initiated when deemed necessary due to activity. Corrective action may include identification and disposal of infested products, insecticide application for insects, setting of snap traps for rodents, cleaning, and enhanced service frequency. When customers are seeing visible pests within a Food Service establishment this is often a clear indication of inadequate response to pest activity. Be aware of what your service provider is doing and assist them where possible in gaining control.

  • Foster communication and cooperation. A strong working relationship between the PMP and Food Service personnel is critical to preventing pest infestation. When pest activity is detected by Food Service personnel this must be relayed to the PMP for action. Similarly when the PMP identifies pest activity or finds conditions on site that could lead to infestation this must be communicated with the appropriate urgency to their clients so that action is taken within the needed time frame. Good communication is one of the most influential factors determining whether pest management will be successful. Cooperation is needed as well to implement the necessary corrective actions such as allowing access for the PMP to perform work after hours, opening up void areas where pests could be harbouring, providing maintenance support, enhancing cleaning efforts, removing food items and utensils from an area to prevent contamination during treatment, etc.

  • Respond promptly and effectively to recommendations. Often pest activity occurs due to underlying factors present within or around the perimeter of the facility. An important part of the PMP’s service is to report on structural and sanitation conditions present on site that promote pest infestation to their clients and to follow-up to make sure positive things happen. Equally if not more important is the response to these recommendations; where response is inadequate the risk of pest activity developing escalates and so does the risk of Public Health inspection closure.

  • Maintain your facility. Building maintenance both in terms of structural upkeep and thorough sanitation practices are critical to the prevention of pest activity. Structural issues such as holes and gaps around utility lines within the exterior walls, and open or poorly sealed doors and windows will allow both rodent, insect and possibly bird entry. Interior structural deficiencies such as missing grout between floor tiles, holes within interior walls, and plumbing leaks also promote pest infestation by providing harbourage sites and favourable habitat. Sanitation deficiencies allowing food material accumulation both inside and outside the facility will lead to pest infestation either by attracting them to the building or providing the needed resources for survival and growth. While site maintenance is a direct cost to the facility it is something that will reward management not only through reduced pest pressure but also through elevated employee and customer satisfaction.

As we have seen, pest management programs must be proactive in nature to achieve the desired result of protecting the establishment from pest activity. This goal can only be achieved with a partnership that provides a focussed approach to strong sanitation practices, sound building maintenance and quick detection with appropriate action toward pest presence should it occur. By working together in this nature, risk to public health is avoided and brand image is not only maintained but is strengthened.

Steven Graff is the Quality Assurance Manager at Abell Pest Control. Holding a Biological Science Honours degree from the University of Guelph, he has written and developed many nationally recognized papers, articles and training programs in the field of Pest Control, Integrated Pest Management and related fields. In his 15th year with Abell, he directs a team of Auditors and Field Trainers, who support hundreds of Technical staff for Abell and their Customers.

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