— By Carol L. Carey —
How to control social media and news coverage of your establishment through effective, preventative pest control.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, local news outlets and even national television cover everything: the good, the bad and the ugly — and not all publicity is good publicity. Contrary to the types of stories you want printed about your establishment, negative stories can “go viral” quicker than positive ones. If someone finds a rat in the produce section at a local grocery store, or food poisoning at a local restaurant sends dozens to the hospital, people will know about it. Fast. Do you really want your store or restaurant to be trending for the wrong reasons?
Many people in the food manufacturing, restaurant, grocery and safety industry, as well as the average consumer, can immediately hear on social media, news outlets and word of mouth about food contamination or pest-filled locations. They are familiar with contamination, illnesses, deaths and recalls.
Recently I saw a viral video of a bird sitting in the produce section of a local grocery store. Weekly there is news of restaurants failing their inspections because of rodent droppings or evidence of bugs. Recently, one restaurant was ordered closed after the health inspector found 32 violations, including live files and roaches in the food prep area. News — especially negative news — travels fast. How does one stay ahead of the world’s ability to spread news of one incident almost immediately?
Being proactive and well informed are the keys to avoiding negative viral videos and news reports.
While food can become contaminated at any time during production, unsanitary environments joined with disease-carrying pests in food facilities can cause extensive outbreaks. Pest management can be challenging even on a small scale and may seem overwhelming in larger instances such as in food processing facilities, warehouses and the like. Regardless of operation extent, the costs of negligent pest management can be overwhelming and produce devastating deadly consequences.
As grocery store and restaurant proprietors/operators know all too well, pest management is likely one of the biggest challenges they face daily. The abundance of food and ideal moisture and temperature conditions provide pests with various hiding and nesting sites, making restaurants one of the most ideal atmospheres for pests. Because pests and rodents don’t discriminate between fast food and five-star restaurants, they will make themselves at home wherever and however they can.
Rats and Mice
Rats and mice are known as commensal rodents, a very appropriate term as commensal means “sharing one’s table.” Although people may shudder at the thought, these pests have been “sharing” people’s food and shelter for centuries. The three most common commensal rodent pests are the house mouse, the Norway rat and the roof rat.
In a restaurant, grocery store or food processing plants the presence of rodents can result in food and surface contamination, fines from the health department and, in severe cases, temporary or permanent closure of the establishment. They spread Salmonella and other bacteria through their droppings, can trigger allergies and asthma attacks as a result of a protein in their urine, and bring with them other diseases such as murine typhus, infectious jaundice, Weil’s Disease and rat-bite fever. In addition to the health and sanitation concerns, rodent infestations can also damage property as they chew through wood and drywall, and can even gnaw through electrical wires, causing fires. Financial losses as a result of rodent invasions are astounding. In fact, experts estimate that rats and mice destroy enough food each year to feed 200 million people by attacking food in farm fields, orchards, processing and food storage and service facilities, as well as people’s homes.
One dependable way to help control rodents in your facility is to take measures to stop their entry in the first place. However, exclusion is much easier said than done in establishments where food preparation, guest services and efficiency are of the utmost importance. In those instances, many times, watching the loading dock, immediately wiping up spills or dropped food and checking entry points can become secondary, when they are the first lines of defense.
House flies have been found to carry more than 100 kinds of disease-causing germs, including Salmonella and Listeria. They are breeding in moist or decaying garbage and then move from that garbage to equipment and other surfaces, giving ample opportunities to transmit disease-causing bacteria.
Roaches of many different species spread at a minimum 33 kinds of bacteria, six kind of parasitic works and a least seven kinds of human pathogens, including Salmonella, Vibrio Cholerae and Staphylococcus Aureus. They pick up germs and debris on their legs as they crawl through sewage, debris and other unsanitary areas and then transfer germs and debris to food, food surfaces and processing equipment.
Birds — not only are they messy and create slip-and-fall situations, their droppings and nesting supplies can have over 60 diseases and ectoparasites communicable to humans and animals. People with compromised or weakened immune systems (often found in the very young, elderly and those with auto-immune diseases) are most at risk. Their presence in a facility that processes, sells or serves food is a potential liability to that company.
What can you do?
Since managers and staff are the ones on-site, they must be the initial line of defense, identifying entry points and signs of infestation. Action items include:
- Make sure the trash is picked up regularly, and that the dumpster is kept clean and not overflowing.
- Seal all potential entry points, including the foundation, roof and dock areas.
- Install a gravel or rock perimeter around the facility to discourage vegetation that could invite and harbor pests.
- Make a “no-prop” door policy for employees ensuring doors aren’t left open.
- Install air curtains and screens to keep flying insects out.
- Ensure that all locations maintain an 18-inch inspection aisle inside the facility. By keeping pallets and shelving away from the wall, it is easier to see pests and their droppings.
- Eliminate clutter they can hide and nest in.
- Set up regular pest control service and Inspections.
- Install deterrents or netting for birds to exclude their harborage on your premises.
Pest Management: An Absolute Necessity
In restaurants, food manufacturing, storage facilities and retail stores, pest management is accepted as a necessity. However, in practice, when every penny and moment must be spent purposefully, the necessary financial and time commitment given to proper pest management tends to fluctuate. The critical importance of pest management can sometimes be minimized and even rationalized away when there are budgetary decisions to be made regarding day-to-day operations. Yet a consistent focus upon developing a strong pest management program — one that includes regular inspections and audits, proactive pest-proofing measures and an immediate action plan to put in place when faced with a potential infestation — is essential to provide consumers with safe and healthy food products.
So, which will it be for you? Don’t allow pest problems and viral news coverage to become an inevitability. With key preventions in place, you can ensure your restaurant or retail store are talked about for all the right reasons instead.
— Carol L. Carey is CEO and co-founder of Superior Facility Service Group, Inc., a family owned and operated company specializing in commercial maintenance and repair, bird control and prevention, and disaster restoration. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.superiorfacilityservice.com.