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March Cartoon: When to Call Pest Control
Cartoon of pied piper calling a horde of mice, rats, and cockroaches out of a fast food restaurant

Pest prevention is a year-round challenge – different weather simply brings out different pests.

To keep pests out of your food establishment and outside where they belong, set up an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. When planning your program, follow these four steps:

  1. Proactively prevent pests. It's always better to prevent pests altogether than to try and get rid of them after they've moved in. Prevention doesn't have to be complicated. Check out our article, "3 Steps to Preventing Pests in Your Facility," for some simple ideas you can start implementing today.
  2. Watch for signs of pests. Regularly monitor your establishment, especially food storage areas and trash receptacles, for signs of pests. Teach your employees what signs to look for, too. Our "Pest Prevention" article provides more information about three common pests (cockroaches, flies, and rodents) and indicators of an infestation. Knowing what kind of pest is trying to get in is the first step to getting it out.
  3. Establish action thresholds. Action thresholds are to IPM what critical control points are to HACCP. Seeing one fly in your facility one time doesn't necessarily mean you need to call pest control. Decide ahead of time when you will bring in the experts.
  4. Call a licensed pest control operator (PCO). If you notice an ongoing problem or see a lot of evidence of pests at one time, it's time to call for help. Work with a licensed pest control operator to get rid of pests safely. Licensed PCOs are certified to use pesticide in your establishment if necessary. They can also advise you on non-chemical solutions like traps.

Your most important job in managing pests is to keep food safe. If a pest control operator determines that using chemicals is necessary, do your part to protect food from chemical hazards. As much as possible, remove food and food-contact surfaces such as cutting boards and utensils from the area. Put waterproof covers on food-contact surfaces and equipment that can't be moved. After the treatment, clean and sanitize your equipment.

For more information about managing pests, see our food manager training course.

– Jessica Pettit

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