A recent mice infestation in a shopping centre has once again given me pause for thought in terms of the challenges facing operators in keeping their premises pest free.
This is particularly difficult in major cities and close to waterways where mice and rats are often prevalent.
Major construction works involved in the development of a shopping centre, for example, can often result in mice being displaced from their settled habitat. 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 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 risks:
■ Ensure you have a clear and comprehensive food safety policy specifically identifying the risk of pests, and include tips for staff on identifying their presence. The policy should also include clear instructions about what to do should warning signs be spotted.
■ Ensure staff are properly trained up on the policy and that training is regularly refreshed, with records kept to demonstrate that you as the “food business” have
done everything you can to ensure 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 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, make sure there is a clear documentary trail to show that the recommendations have been followed. Should problems be discovered, make sure the frequency of visits thereafter is in-creased in the short to medium term to ensure the problem is eliminated.
■ If you have a primary authority relationship, ensure your primary authority has 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 for pest-related issues are expensive, with fine levels potentially high, not to mention the damage that 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 your business is properly protected.