You must understand pest control practices to maintain a restaurant that excels in health code compliance. The U.S. has strict compliance laws to provide customers with a safe, clean environment to enjoy food. That means restaurants and other food-based establishments are responsible for keeping their building free of pests that can harm reputation and revenue.
In this blog on understanding health code standards in pest control, we’ll look at the following topics:
- The Role of Pest Control in Maintaining Health Code Compliance
- Identifying Common Pests in Restaurants
- Best Practices in Restaurant Pest Control
- Preventive Measures to Keep Pests at Bay
- Health Code Regulations and Compliance
The Role of Pest Control in Maintaining Health Code Compliance
There are several categories that a health inspector goes through as they look at the state of your building. Some of these include proper food storage and preparation, temperature control, employee hygiene, and looking for signs of pests.
Pest control makes up 20% of the restaurant health inspection. That’s a fifth of the report, making it a major category that significantly impacts your restaurant’s review.
Identifying Common Pests in Restaurants
Rodents and Insects: What Restaurant Owners Should Know
In 2023, over 100 food service locations in the U.S. were cited for rodent health code violations. Rodents, cockroaches, flies, and stored product pests like weevils and beetles were the most common pests to be found in restaurants.
Rats and mice are a restaurant owner’s worst nightmare. A 2022 health article found that 66% of food service establishments surveyed saw rodents in or around the immediate exterior of their building.
Rodents typically stay hidden when people are around, hanging out in the interior walls and behind appliances. Along with the obvious unsanitary conditions they can cause, rodents carry dangerous diseases like monkeypox and hantavirus.
The German cockroach is the #1 pest problem in U.S. restaurants. These roaches can spread diseases onto food and surfaces, triggering allergic reactions and poisoning. Plus, after you spot one, it’s almost sure there’s more. Cockroaches reproduce at a rapid rate, leading quickly to a full-on outbreak. If you catch it early on, you can have a pest control plan before your restaurant becomes at greater risk of unsuitable conditions.
Flies are common and not an extreme cause for concern, especially if you’re sitting outside. That said, flies can transfer pathogens from their feet onto food and surfaces. Likewise, flies are attracted to decaying organic waste, and a surplus of them can reflect poorly on your restaurant. Keeping a clean space is vital in controlling fly populations.
Stored Product Pests
Stored product pests show in the packaged food delivered to your restaurant. These include bugs like grain and flour beetles, rice weevils, and Indianmeal moths. These pests are small but capable of compromising entire food packages. Infestations typically begin in the warehouse where the food is shipped initially. Once in your restaurant, they can reproduce and infest other packages.
Signs of Pest Infestations in Food Service Environments
You don’t have to wait for a customer or inspector to find a pest in your restaurant; be proactive in spotting them for yourself. The most common signs of pest infestations in restaurants include:
- Seeing the pest, eggs, nest, or droppings in the kitchen, dining areas, bathrooms, or exterior of your restaurant
- Damage to equipment and packaged food (e.g., gnaw marks in plastic)
- Ammonia odor (Rodent urine)
- Strange noises in the walls and cabinets (e.g., rodent scurrying)
Best Practices in Restaurant Pest Control
Regular Inspections: The First Step in Effective Pest Management
Your first line of defense against pests is effective restaurant pest control. Let the professionals take care of your pest problems through early intervention. Exterminators don’t just eliminate existing pests; they put preventative measures in place to prevent future infestations.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for Restaurants
IPM refers to pest control that uses various methods partnered with monitoring to reduce the need for pesticide-related applications. At Insectek, all of our pest control treatments are done with the safety of you, your building, and the environment in mind.
With IPM, you can be confident that future pests will be deterred from entering your building. This is done by removing attractants and existing pests from the premises. For example, the exterminator will close openings in the foundation that allow pests to enter.
Safe and Effective Use of Pest Control Products in Food Service Areas
One critical piece of restaurant pest control services is that you make sure you’re hiring trained individuals who understand how to implement products properly.
DIY pest control in a restaurant is like playing with fire; you must be careful to use products and equipment correctly. Otherwise, you put the integrity of the building at risk and create food safety hazards. Professionals implement pest control in restaurants safely and efficiently so that pests are successfully removed.
Preventive Measures to Keep Pests at Bay
Sanitation Practices to Deter Pests in Restaurants
Rather than waiting to see how strong your restaurant is on its own, you can take preventive measures now. Early intervention before the pests even show up significantly decreases the chances of infestation, which saves you money and resources in the long run.
Some core sanitation practices to implement in your restaurant include:
- Proper food storage, making sure food is fully sealed and at least six feet off the floor.
- Enforce and maintain sanitization practices for preparation areas
- Properly and frequently dispose of leftover food and trashbags
- Eliminate open food and water sources
- Regularly clean floors and table surfaces to dispose of spills and crumbs
Structural Maintenance: Sealing Entry Points and Reducing Habitats
Pests aren’t just attracted to food they can eat; they also search out environments suitable to reproduce and live in. Make sure your restaurant is NOT pest-friendly by getting rid of the factors that go into a cozy living space for them, including:
- Seal openings and cracks in walls, corners, and windows
- Keep entry points closed
- Avoid built-up moisture and humidity
- Remove open water sources (e.g., spills, open jugs, stagnant water in sinks, etc.)
- Remove material piles that provide damp or dark hiding places (e.g., cardboard boxes, wood piles, trash, clutter, etc.)
Employee Training: Awareness and Best Practices in Pest Prevention
You shouldn’t be the only one practicing pest prevention; ensure your employees are on board, too. Each employee should practice daily hygienic practices like sanitizing equipment and properly storing food.
Likewise, encourage being proactive with practices like taking out the trash frequently, getting rid of puddles and spills the moment they occur, and properly disposing of expired food.
Health Code Regulations and Compliance
Navigating Local Health Code Requirements for Pest Control
In Arizona, inspectors follow a checklist during the pest control portion of their appointment. Below is an example checklist to help you prepare for a health inspection.
1. Are all countertops and floors free of rodent droppings?
2. Are cabinets, doors, and walls free of animal hair?
3. Are any movement, gnawing, or squeaking sounds coming from the ceilings, walls, or cupboards?
4. Is there any debris, such as cardboard, rags, straw, or paper, that rodents could use to make nests lying around?
5. Have any gnawing marks been noticed on food containers, wood, conduits, soap, soft metals, or cables?
1. Have any insects been trapped in the sticky traps placed around the property?
2. Is there any evidence of debris or damage that points towards the presence of insects?
3. Have any body parts of insects (shed exoskeleton or wings) been found on the premises?
4. Is there any musty smell?
5. Are there any insect droppings?
6. Have any remains of dead cockroaches or other dead insects been found?
Documenting Pest Control Measures for Health Inspections
Create a thorough document for the inspector outlining all your efforts to prevent pests and keep a clean building.
Include items and information like:
- Service reports since the last health inspection
- Inspection and corrective action reports
- Pesticide usage logs
- Labels and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
- Pest control company licenses and insurance certificates