29 March 2018

Pest control procedures in the food industry - A recipe for success

Food industry | PestAware

The risks posed by pests in any food handling premises are diverse.  There's the spread of disease, damage to property (including foodstuffs), adverse public opinion, damage to reputations, and the risk (and expense of) prosecution. Taken to its extreme, your food premises closure of the premises, and perhaps with it the business.

Whether you're responsible for a restaurant, takeaway, catering company, cafe, hotel or a burger van - you should be thinking about your pest control provision. 

Effective pest management programmes should prevent not only the introduction of pests anywhere on a food site but also reduce the conditions that may encourage pest presence or facilitate their survival should they establish a presence.

If you followed a fly for a day, you wouldn't eat for a weekLarge retailers generally have effective pest control systems in place, although there is always scope for improvement. Among the smaller businesses, however, there is often much more that can be done to ensure compliance with the regulations and an appropriate level of protection against pests at food premises. 

Even among the larger players, there is a reluctance to share best practice openly.

Major UK retailers are rarely willing to discuss pest issues on the record, demonstrating the culture around public health pest control of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

The attitude in the US is very different, and food premises have a very visible pest control culture. Pest control here is something of a taboo subject among food retailers, publicly at least. 

Alistair's Café in Crystal Palace, London with their Certificate of Pest Control Compliance given to them by BPCA member Beaver Pest Control

Food, pests and the law

The regulatory framework (principally, the Food Safety Act 1990 and the Food Hygiene Regulations 2005 made under it) deems food unsafe if it is considered to be injurious to health or unfit for human consumption.

It lays down general hygiene requirements for all food business operators. The layout, design and construction of food premises should permit good food hygiene practices including protection against contamination and, in particular, adequate pest control.

Food premise due dillegence

The procedures should be based upon the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principle generally. This identifies processes, which are most hazardous, so measures can be taken to reduce risk. Pest management is part of the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for food businesses, which is a prerequisite for the HACCP-based procedures in place. As an integral part of the GMPs, it should be carried out with due diligence.

Due diligence doesn’t simply fall on a pest control contractor retained by the proprietor of food premises to deal with pests. The proprietor has to demonstrate good practices themselves and does not abrogate responsibility by using a contractor.

Many proprietors’ assume that with a pest control contractor in place they have done their bit on due diligence.

Guidelines drawn up by the National Pest Advisory Panel (NPAP) of the CIEH – Pest Control in the Food Industry, revised 2015 – are aimed at the food-manufacturing sector. The principles are the same for production (farmers and growers), raw material and ingredient suppliers, warehousing, distribution and retail, but the level of pest control contract specification varies.

The Guidance states:

If standards and guidelines for pest control are to achieve the aim of promoting best practice they must be practical and flexible

CIEH – Pest Control in the Food Industry, 2009

The standard should be risk-based, the Guidance emphasises, to address the issues raised by the risk to public health due to activities of pests, and to the environment.

Big businesses tend to be largely self-policing as they tend to have robust policies and procedures in place.

The problems tend to be with the small operators – some restaurants that don’t necessarily appreciate the finer points of food hygiene. The scope of some pest control contracts is often inadequate to cover retail food outlets because the non-food rooms were not necessarily covered by the agreement.

A reduced specification in the contract could mean areas remaining untreated. Proprietors need to get comprehensive contracts with the contractors to allow them to do a reasonable job.

Pest control procedures in food premises

Stored product pests

When raw produce arrives at the food premises, it should be inspected for evidence of infestation from the outset. The stock must remain accessible for inspection at all times.

One of the problems pest controllers find is that the produce can get stored against walls and there is no way around. Infestation from stored product pests can take hold without being easily detected.

Pest proofing

food business should have pest prevention systems in place, which include having the building proofed to a very high standard to prevent pests gaining access in the first place.

You might have doors with a gap of a maximum 5mm to prevent rats or mice getting in. On critical areas, you could install a fly screening up against the windows and electronic fly killers inside so that if anything does breach the screening, it can be arrested on the fly killer.

If it is a manufacturing unit, a glueboard system could be used, rather than the high voltage grids which tend to explode a fly when it gets electrocuted. Fly killers should be serviced in the spring, so they are fully operational well before the summer months.

It’s good practice to analyse the catch to identify the various fly species. You might then be able to find where they are coming from as part of the HACCP process.

Food waste

Rats around food waste

The proper disposal of food waste is also necessary as pests quickly collect where waste food is left hanging around. 

You can eliminate a significant number of pest problems with general staff pest awareness and taking care of your food waste correctly. 

Environmental issues are ever present. Mice infestations can be very problematic.

In parts of the country, such as the South, rat infestations are becoming more difficult to control because of the resistance issue – resistance to rodenticides

We also want to minimise the use of anticoagulant rodenticides in the environment for prolonged lengths of time because of the risk to non-target species and the environment.

We always want to encourage responsible environmental management.

If food waste is stored correctly and disposed of regularly by waste disposal contractors, pests can’t get at it. What you’re doing is reducing the attraction in a particular area for a variety of pests such as mice, rats, insects including flies, or birds such as pigeons or gulls.

Food waste is where most pests are attracted. Once they get there, they can then get into the restaurant or the supermarket quite easily if the building structure is inadequately proofed.

Block control

The proper control of pests and compliance with food safety legislation at all retail food premises in a block of properties including the general environment surrounding the food businesses otherwise you could get immigration of infestation.

If needed, environmental health authorities have the necessary powers of entry and food safety legislation needed to enable such wide-reaching strategies.

Picking an appropriate pest control contractor


Food businesses should specify that their pest control contractors have an appropriate professional standing.

Choosing a contractor that's a member of the British Pest Control Association means you can be sure they:

  • Are audited against the British Standard EN16636 for pest management
  • Abide by strict industry Codes of Best Practice
  • Provide detailed advice on pest prevention measures 
  • Perform a survey before starting work or providing a final quote
  • Have at least £2 million public and products liability insurance
  • Protect staff, customers and members of the public through risk and COSHH assessments
  • Only employ technicians who meet or exceed the industry standard qualifications

You can find a BPCA member company through the Find a pest controller tool.

Find a trusted pest controller

Source: PestAware

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