A recent mice infestation in a shopping centre has once again given me pause for thought in terms of the challenges which face operators of keeping their premises pest free.
This is particularly difficult in major cities and close to waterways where mice and rats are often prevalent.
The major construction works which are involved in the development of a shopping centre, for example, can often result in mice being displaced from their settled habitat. Not surprisingly, as they search for a new home they will undoubtedly be attracted to the sorts of food sources on offer in restaurants and bars and particularly where the cleaning regimes are not up to scratch.
Numerous regulations under Food Safety legislation apply, not least the specific requirement to have adequate pest control procedures in place.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of some basic steps to be taken to minimise the risk:
- Ensure that you have a clear and comprehensive Food Safety Policy specifically identifying the risk of pests and tips for your staff on identifying their presence. The Policy should also include clear instruction to staff on what to do in the event that warning signs are spotted;
- Ensure that staff are properly trained in respect of the Policy and that training is regularly refreshed with records kept to demonstrate to the Authorities that you as the “food business” have done everything you can to ensure that the risk is minimised;
- The importance of proper cleaning cannot be overstated in terms of eliminating the food source for pests and increasing the chances that they will look elsewhere. Again, staff training and records of cleaning undertaken are imperative here to demonstrate due diligence should a problem occur;
- Employ the services of a competent pest control contractor to carry out regular visits to the premises to check for signs of pests which may not be immediately obvious to staff. Should baiting or pest proofing works be recommended then make sure that there is a clear documentary trail to show that the recommendations have been followed. Should problems be discovered then make sure that the frequency of visits thereafter is increased in the short to medium term to ensure that the problem is eliminated;
- If you have a Primary Authority relationship, ensure that your Primary Authority have formally validated your systems with regards to pest control as this may assist in avoiding the most severe forms of enforcement action should a problem arise.
Prosecutions are expensive with fine levels being potentially high, not to mention the damage which can be done to a business as a result of any adverse publicity. It is therefore very worthwhile taking the time and effort to ensure that your business is properly protected.