My apologies to J.K. Rowling for the stolen title, but sometimes the way pests get into food preparation areas seems extraordinary enough to justify the magical link. One of the areas covered in food hygiene training is recognising the common pests that you may find in a kitchen, along with details of the diseases they carry. You will be best to do a complete Level 2 food hygiene training course to fully understand your responsibilities in preventing an infestation, and what to do if you have one. This article is a brief overview of some of the pests you may encounter.
In any kitchen, the plentiful supply of foodstuff, waste materials and dark corners to hide in make it a tempting place for a range of pests. Some of these are just a nuisance and some are potentially rather dangerous, but all of them are unwanted and need attention.
Rodents, usually in the form of mice and rats, are quite common and they are surprisingly capable when it comes to getting in and out what seem to be impossible spaces. A mouse has a very flexile skeleton and can squeeze itself through a gap as wide as the thickness of a pen. Getting in under a door, or through the gap around a pipe, is not going to be a problem for a furry intruder. Rats are slightly larger, of course, but again they are remarkably agile. Once they get into your kitchen, a lot of rodents are ‘sprinklers’, and this means that they will drip urine on almost every surface they touch. Droppings are also a problem, and because they are adept at chewing through bags and other containers rodents will easily get into foodstuffs and leave nasty surprises behind. Rodents need dealing with quickly because they are prolific breeders, and a female mouse will produce a new generation of up 16 little pests every few weeks.
Flying insects can be difficult to control. This is particularly true in summer, when you really want those windows open for the cooling breeze. Wasps can be a problem for people working in a kitchen because, as anyone who has ever been on a picnic will tell you, they are quite aggressive and will sting when threatened. They also carry bacteria and can infect uncovered food. Flies, as we all know, are pretty filthy and can breed quickly in rubbish, drains and anywhere rotting material or faeces is available. Again, they will contaminate uncovered food. Window screens and UV electrocution units can be very effective against flying insects but will need checking regularly.
Crawling insects can be more difficult to control. If a mouse can squeeze through a tiny gap, imagine how easy it is for an insect. Some crawlers, such as ants, are more of a nuisance that a health hazard, but they will find their way in and make the most of any source of food, with sweet things being a particular favourite. Cockroaches, on the other hand, are a real potential food hazard. Most people instinctively recoil from cockroaches because they really are quite nasty little bugs. They drop faeces, produce an unpleasant smell, shed their outer layer and also carry unpleasant bacteria. Again, if you have a cockroach infestation it needs dealing with as soon as you detect it.
Weevils, moths and beetles can be surprisingly destructive. Known as stored pests, they will live on a range of kitchen cupboard items such as flour, nuts and grains. Of course, you cannot eat the affected food and you will probably also need to have the area treated to prevent a further infestation, and this will be a costly exercise. Usually, they are delivered with the food, so refuse any stock if you suspect infestation.
Pests are a fact of life and the chances are that every food preparation area will have an issue at some point. Recognition of the problem, the correct handling and a fast resolution are vital to maintaining a clean, safe food preparation environment.