Food Pests – What Are the Top Four?

You know about the four food groups, but do you know about the four food pests? It doesn’t matter if you own a grocery store, manage or own a restaurant, are a Quality Assurance Specialist in a food processing plant, or just have a kitchen in your office space, the major four pests when it comes to food can cause you problems. We are talking flies, cockroaches, birds, and rodents.

From contaminating food to ruining packaging with their constant gnawing, these four pests can do some costly damage. Not just money, either. It would be tough to figure out the damage done to you and your business’s reputation and brand. The only thing worse than that would be making someone ill from contaminated food. Let’s review these four pests:

Cockroaches & Flies – most people think of filth when they think of these two pests. They aren’t far off since they both breed in and feed on filth. Because of that, it should come as no surprise that cockroaches are a carrier of a range of bacteria including streptococcus, salmonella, and staphylococcus. They can even harbor viruses like polio! Cockroaches as well as flies will eat almost anything they can get their grubby little hands on including fecal matter. The bacteria they ingest will live in their digestive system and will get passed on in their poop. They also defecate and vomit on food, and if that food gets eaten by humans, it could make them sick. Another pest that vomits on their food are flies. When they land on your potato salad at the picnic, they aren’t taking dainty bites. To create a liquid meal, they vomit digestive juices onto it so they can drink it up. As you can image, the vomit is chock full of bacteria and the germs from whatever they ate last. In addition, the pathogens in their digestive juices live longer than any on their feet so the chance of getting germs and bacteria on your clean food is way greater when they land on it. House flies actually carry bacteria, parasite eggs, viruses, and about 100 different kinds of pathogens. You don’t want those anywhere near your food or your business.

Birds – keeping a door open may as well have a big ‘come in’ sign for birds. Also, a warm cozy building with some areas up high where they can nest or perch will bring one thing for sure: poop. Droppings from birds don’t just contaminate food; it can actually do structural damage since it’s caustic to concrete and even metal. Keeping them out is important but making your building less attractive to them can discourage nesting outside where feathers, dangerous materials they use to nest, and their droppings can contaminate packing or products. Nesting that is inside your building like in the eaves are hazardous to both your customers and your staff. And it’s not just the birds – those nests will attract other ectoparasites and insects that will never be tolerated in any facility that handles food. Bird feces enriches the soil it lands on and encourages growth of Histoplasma capsulatum – a fungus that, if inhaled, can cause the respiratory disease, histoplasmosis. As if that’s not enough, birds are also associated with more than 60 human pathogenic diseases. Pigeons, starlings, and sparrows – common birds that tend to find their way into storage facilities and food production plants – carry Salmonella bacteria. That illness is found in bird droppings and can be spread to humans if they get in the food. Whether the droppings fall in or the germs are on their bodies or feet when they land, your food can get infected.

Rodentsrats and mice can do some serious damage. Most importantly, they will either ruin or contaminate food. Their feet pick up the filth and disease from wherever they walk and then transfer it to the next place they walk. That could be your counter, your food prep table, and your food products themselves. Their fur, urine, and droppings are health hazards since they can transmit disease. No matter how much you clean, if a mouse or a rat runs through a dumpster and then across your clean counter, they will bring bacteria with them. They only need a tiny opening to squeeze through to take advantage of your nice warm business with its plentiful stream of water and food. Rats eat about 30 grams of food daily. If you have 50 rats in your food storage area or plant, they will gobble up 23 pounds of your food every week. That hurts your bottom line, but frankly the bigger issue is the contaminated food and risk of making people ill from it. Mice and rats are known carrier of several different diseases including Salmonella, hantavirus, Tularemia, leptospirosis, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV). Besides that risk, these pests can do a lot of damage to your building. Because the teeth of both mice and rats are always growing, they gnaw on just about anything they can get their paws on to keep their chompers in check. They like things that remind them of the roots of plants like piping and lines of conduit, but just about anything will do. They gnaw on wiring – which could mean a fire hazard. To get to food, they will gnaw right through cardboard boxes. In order to gain access to your attic, they will actually chew through drywall and wood in your structure. And once those pests get in there, they will use drop ceilings, wall voids, and your ductwork as their way to get around your building unseen. When they find your insulation and burrow into it, their droppings and urine will ruin it. It would be hard to even guess at the amount of damage all of this would add up to.

Could there even be a silver lining around all this? The answer to that is yes and it’s all about Integrated Pest Management [link to blog]. You can read all about it in our blog post, but to sum it up, the process uses several strategies with treatment being only one small portion of it. A team works together toward a common goal: controlling pests. Using IPM will keep you, your employees, and your customers safe, not to mention keep your customers happy and willing to return, as well as help you pass those inevitable audits. To do all that, you need a company that speaks your language. Waltham Pest Services speaks several including Quality Assurance Specialist, General Managers and restaurant owners, and Plant Managers. We have the experience you need to deal with the pest issues that being in the food business can bring with it.

Author: Waltham Pest Services