By Alice Sinia
As a restaurant operator, you know how challenging it can be to keep a culture of cleanliness in your kitchen. With staff coming and going, good routines and habits can be hard to reinforce. Errors in kitchen sanitation can lead to bigger issues, such as contaminated food, botched health inspections or worse.
Foodborne illnesses, in fact, are a major concern in Canada. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates the country has four million cases each year. That means roughly one in eight Canadians are subjected to preventable illnesses each year, some of which are fatal in severe cases.
For those in the restaurant business, even one case of a foodborne illness is too many. You’re not in the service and experience-oriented business to harm your patrons. You want people to leave happy and satisfied, so it’s important to do the best you can to prevent any food contamination.
A major way to do that is by controlling pests that transmit pathogens. Pathogens, allergens and irritants from flies, rodents and cockroaches are major causes of foodborne illnesses. For a look at how serious pests can be, consider this:
- Filth Flies transmit more than 100 known pathogens, including Escherichia coli (E. coli), salmonella, staphylococcus, Clostridium, Bacillus and Shingles. These flies leave behind pathogens every time they touch a surface and are a major threat to food safety.
- Rodents transmit pathogens such as salmonella and irritants through their droppings, urine and other body fluids such as saliva when they contaminate food, food utensils and prep surfaces.
- Cockroaches threaten food safety by carrying organisms and bacteria that can cause food poisoning, diarrhea and dysentery.
- Food can also be contaminated by body parts, hairs, fragments, allergens and other irritants from pests. Such contaminants can cause gastrointestinal discomfort as well as emotional and psychological distress in some individuals.
Follow the flow
Thinking like a health inspector is a good way to protect your kitchen against pests. Health inspectors typically follow the flow of food through your restaurant from delivery and storage areas to preparation and plating surfaces, looking for food safety threats – and so should you. Along the way, look to restrict the three elements pests need to survive – food, water and shelter.
Prevent entrance to the kitchen
The time to start thinking about food safety is before it arrives in your kitchen. Start by checking with your food suppliers to ensure they have pest management programs of their own. But even if they do, pests can still find their way into your facility by hitchhiking onto food shipments. Look for signs of pest activities when deliveries arrive, such as damaged ingredients or packaging, droppings, webbing, body parts/fragments and actual pests themselves. If you see signs of pests, refuse or quarantine the shipment immediately and follow your product return protocol/policy.
Eliminate temptation in storage areas
After you receive a product, make sure it’s stored properly by keeping all inventory labeled and dated, with containers that are properly sealed and undamaged. Install insect monitors to detect future activity and rotate products on a first-in, first-out basis to prevent food from deteriorating and becoming susceptible to an infestation. Consider keeping a sample of highly susceptible food from each shipment in a sealed and labeled jar. If larvae or insects appear, dispose of the remaining product and immediately contact your supplier. Store dry products away from walls and off floors to prevent products from deteriorating and serving as prime habourage spots for pests.
Schedules mean no guesswork
Cleanliness is crucial at every step of food preparation, and particularly where food is sliced, diced, mixed and cooked. Sanitize all surfaces before using them, and implement a deep-cleaning schedule to thoroughly clean hard to reach spaces, such as behind and under equipment.
Staff training and kitchen routines are the forces on the frontlines that keep food safe for your customers to eat. Establishing schedules, routines and checklists that can be easily passed along from crew to crew should help prevent kitchen pests and takes the guess work out of it.
Keep a posted schedule so that your back-of-the-house staff knows what is expected of them, when to do certain tasks, and so that cleaning times can be marked off and checked by supervisors.
Call the professionals
No matter how hard you work to keep a clean kitchen to prevent pests, partnering with your pest management professional and implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program is the most effective way to reduce the potential for foodborne illnesses and limit the risks of contaminated food to your diners. An IPM approach also uses the least toxic and most environmentally responsible treatment methods to control pests. If you implement these strategies, instead of thinking about any negative experiences with foodborne illnesses, your excellent food and service will remain front and center on the minds of your diners.
About the author:
Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is Quality Assurance Manager – Regulatory/Lab Services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 10 years of experience, she manages the Quality Assurance Laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. For more information, email Alice Sinia at email@example.com or visit www.orkincanada.com.