Don’t Let Rodents Drive You Out of Business
Rodent control is often an unsettling subject – no one feels comfortable in the presence of unwelcome pests. In the case of restaurants and food processing businesses, however, the problem of rodent control goes beyond personal comfort and into significant public image and financial loss. A restaurant’s success is determined by its public reputation, and nothing destroys a hard-earned reputation faster than a rodent scurrying across a room where food is served and/or prepared.
Rodents, along with flies and cockroaches, are the bane of any food service operation, as they are directly and/or indirectly the cause of:
- Food contamination
- Infrastructure damage
- Building and structural damage
- Lost time and productivity
- Psychological wellbeing and health of owners, employees, and customers
- Loss of revenue
- Reputation damage
- Legal liability
Tough public health guidelines against rodents exist for good reason, and the reason is that rodents carry numerous pathogens and bacteria that cause life-threatening diseases in humans and other animals. Through their droppings, rodents can spread Salmonella, asthma, murine typhus, rat-bite fever, infectious jaundice, and the notorious Hantavirus. In 24 hours, a single mouse can urinate thousands of times in micro-droplets and produce up to 75 droppings. In 6 months, a pair of mice can eat 4 pounds of food and contaminate 10 times more. In one year, rodents alter enough food to feed 200 million people.
Tracking the Rodent Problem Effectively: The Importance of Proactive Approach
Many restaurant owners and managers decide to take matters into their own hands when it comes to rodent control on their premises. Their attempt often fails, for two reasons:
1. Commercial DIY pest control is difficult and ineffective. Most common insecticides used for homes and businesses are not always labeled for use in food serving areas due to possible contamination of food and utensils. Even if a certain combination of pest control methods seems to work, it will most likely solve only the current infestation instead of addressing the factors that allow pests inside in the first place.
2. There are several regulations and limitations for pest control in any commercial food handling area. In Canada, strict regulations are in place to ensure that the application of pesticide insecticides and rodenticide residues don’t contaminate the food, food preparation equipment, serving areas, etc.
Although rodenticides might have worked to control rodents in food establishments two decades ago, the science of rodent control has evolved significantly to provide higher efficacy and improved safety at a lower cost. Today, controlling rodents effectively over the long term can be achieved with the implementation of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), an approach that includes monitoring, exclusion, sanitation, and – only as a last resort – the application of rodenticides. Regardless of the size and extent of an infestation, a proactive combination between exclusion and sanitation is the only proven solution for long-term relief from rodents.
Exclusion and Sanitation Are Key to a Pest-Free Restaurant
Essentially, IPM’s exclusion tactics involve the elimination of all access points pests use to gain access into a building (cracks, crevices, etc.). Rats can squeeze through an opening as small as a dime, which means entry points are not hard to find. Common entry points for rodents include exterior doors, loading dock doors, air vents, and along water, electrical, sewer, and HVAC lines. Holes in the foundation or loose roof tiles can also serve as access points for the pests.
The best exclusion practices for rodent control in a restaurant include:
- Safeguarding doors by installing iron flashing around the doors, ensuring that the clearance below the door is smaller than 3/8 inch
- Using proper exclusion materials to protect ventilation grills and windows
- Using proper exclusion materials to patch any small openings surrounding the areas where drain pipes come inside the building
- Placing circular rat guards around all vertical pipes and wires
- Sealing cracks and openings not only inside the building, but also on the outside perimeter, as to deny rodents access to the restaurant’s foundation
Maintaining a high level of sanitation that eliminates food waste entirely is another important goal of IPM, which includes:
- Keep restaurant exteriors as clean and uncluttered as possible by disposing trash in tightly-sealed containers stored as far away from the building as possible
- Remove all standing water; clean gutters regularly, repair leaky faucets and pipes, and ensure storage rooms and basements are dry and well-ventilated
- Remove all clutter from inside the building, including boxes and packaging materials
- Consistently monitor storage areas where food is kept; the farther are foods stored away from the walls, the lower risk of contamination
- Regularly inspect and clean equipment, food contact surfaces, floors, and any other areas that are likely to accumulate large quantities of waste and trash
Maintain Your Restaurant’s Reputation with Professional Pest Control
For any food establishment owner, protecting the restaurant reputation is the number 1 priority, and the impact of a rodent infestation can be devastating. Loss of reputation, revenue, time, money, and peace of mind that would normally accompany a rodent infestation are the reason why IPM practices are critical to the long life and success of any restaurant and food establishment. Working closely with a pest control professional in your area is a great way to form long-term practices and procedures that can help you keep your restaurant clean and your customers satisfied.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid garden