By Steven Sklare
January 6, 2020
Many people in foodservice recognize that the initials IPM stand for Integrated Pest Management just as industry professionals recognize that HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. However, few people understand the true significance of IPM: A combination of non-chemical and chemical applications, effective sanitation and housekeeping procedures and inspections, along with good communication and cooperation. For IPM to be more than an overused acronym, foodservice operators need to understand that IPM may require a change in behavior.
Whether a foodservice operator chooses to implement their own pest control program or uses a Pest Management Professional (PMP), the FDA Food Code clearly states that the person in charge (PIC) is responsible for maintaining a pest-free establishment and for making sure all pest control products and chemicals are applied properly in the facility and accurate records are maintained regarding their use.
The physical presence of uninvited guests is responsible for closing more foodservice operations than any other single factor.
The typical foodservice facility provides an environment that supports pest populations. Pests, whether rodent (rats and mice) or insect (primarily German cockroaches and flying insects) need three essential conditions to survive: Food, shelter and water. All are available readily in foodservice facilities and local vermin don’t care if the food, shelter and water are four-star or no-star. For this reason, the physical presence of uninvited guests is responsible for closing more foodservice operations than any other single factor.
The challenge of IPM is to alter the environment to create hostile conditions for uninvited pests. This is a significant challenge: Pests are constantly introduced into a foodservice facility through the delivery of paper goods, food product, linens, customers and employees. Food odors and food waste generated by the facility are constant attractions to insects, rodents and birds.
In order to diagnose the problem, it can be helpful to discern which of the two scenarios described below most resembles your operation:
- During the lunch rush of a popular local restaurant, one of the dishwashers noticed a German cockroach on the floor just beneath the three-compartment sink. When he reached down to remove the cockroach, he noticed several grease-saturated boxes on the floor, with built-up food debris behind the boxes. When he moved one of the boxes, an explosion of hundreds of cockroaches scattered up his pant leg, across the floor and up the wall toward the expediting station.
- Another popular restaurant was in the middle of their lunch rush when one of the dishwashers noticed a German cockroach on the floor just beneath the three-compartment sink. As the dishwasher reached down to remove the cockroach, he noticed that the floor was clean beneath the sink and observed no other activity in this area. He removed the cockroach and made a mental note to let the manager on duty know about the roach sighting.
The first scenario is just what the cockroach ordered. This was not some out-of-the-way area hidden in the back of the kitchen. Dozens of people walk by every day and the floors are swept and mopped every day. Right under everyone’s noses, sinister, disease-carrying cockroaches have been harboring and breeding in this area for weeks or months. The sink supplied the water, the boxes provided the shelter and the food-residue buildup provided the nutrition. By the time the cockroach was seen, the population had already reached a dangerous level. Insects prefer messes and this was quite a mess.
The second scenario is just what the manager and the pest control operator ordered. There will certainly be some moisture from the sink, but no shelter or convenient food source was available. The moment a single cockroach was sighted, additional corrective and preventive measures could be set in motion. No mess, no buildup, and no hidden problem are waiting to explode.
The Pest Management Professional (PMP) plays a significant role in keeping a foodservice operation pest free. He/she should make specific inspections and recommendations to the foodservice operator concerning potential pest-problem conditions. Chemical applications should be performed only by the PMP.
Compared to the number of hours a facility operates, the PMP is present for a limited time. The individuals who are there every day must be responsible for facility operations—proper sanitation, housekeeping and self-inspection.
Remember, IPM represents a combination of non-chemical and chemical procedures. Sanitation and housekeeping are two pillars of any effective food safety program and also essential for effective IPM. To monitor your efforts, inspect and evaluate your operation using a pest control self-inspection checklist, which might include the following:
Critical evaluation of sanitation and housekeeping procedures
- Are storage areas clean and free of clutter?
- Are floors and areas under shelving clear?
Debris and food buildup under kitchen equipment
- Are areas behind and beside kitchen equipment free of debris and food buildup?
- Are floor drains inspected and properly cleaned?
- Is food stored in pest-proof containers?
Structural deficiencies/state of repair
- Is the building pest proof?
- Are there leaks, standing water or water damage?
- Are doors tight fitting?
- Are windows screened?
- Are doors self-closing?
- Are pipe runs sealed from the outside?
- Are the garbage containers located directly outside your service door? If so, is your service door protected with either an air curtain or screen door?
- Is the area kept clean and free of garbage on the ground?
- Are your garbage containers on a solid surface, with no place for rodents to burrow?
- Are the containers kept clean and closed to deter flying insects and pest birds?
Presence of pests
- Filth flies
- Fruit flies/drain flies
- Pest birds
Evidence of pests
- Are droppings present?
- Is food product being damaged?
- Is any odor present?
- Is nesting material evident?
- Has rodent activity left grease marks?
- Is there an appropriate level of communication and cooperation between the operator and the PMP?
- Does the PCO provide useful information?
- Do you relate your observations to the PMP, either directly or through a pest control service log?
No silver bullet assures food safety or pest control. HACCP represents an approach to food safety that combines science with common sense to help correct, anticipate and prevent food handling errors. Similarly, IPM represents a combination of non-chemical (common sense) and chemical (science) strategies that create the most effective pest control program that corrects, anticipates and prevents pest-related problems in the foodservice operation.
The physical presence of pests can lead to the closing of a food establishment because it is something customers can see and will respond to. Those uninvited guests can also transfer pathogenic bacteria from a drain line or nesting area onto a cutting board that could lead to a foodborne illness outbreak.
Remember, insects prefer messes! Your mother was right: Clean up your mess.
Steven Sklare, REHS/RS, CP-FS, LEHP is an Everclean Strategic Business Development Executive