Of all the small pests that could present a big issue for a food business, cockroaches are one of the most unpleasant to deal with. These universally despised insects are not only unsightly, but they can pose major food safety risks as well.
Gastroenteritis (e.g. food poisoning, diarrhea), dysentery, cholera, typhoid fever, salmonellosis and E. coli infection — cockroaches can carry all these diseases and more, and transmit them to humans.
Cockroaches survive by eating garbage, crumbs, feces and scraps of food. When they make their way from garbage bins or sewers into buildings, they carry pathogens with them. Cockroaches are one of many pests that cause cross-contamination when they track harmful microorganisms around the business, and across surfaces such as clean counters and dishes.
They breed quickly and can flatten their bodies to hide practically anywhere, such as under doormats, making cockroaches extremely difficult to get rid of. A cockroach infestation can lead to health inspection violations, damaged reputation and lost revenue — not to mention the costs of eradication.
To aid in pest prevention and keep customers safe, all staff should be trained in pest control protocols, and how to recognize the signs of cockroaches.
Pest prevention is key
It’s far easier to prevent cockroaches from entering the food business than having to eradicate a cockroach infestation. Cockroaches look for warm, damp shelter that’s near food and water. Unsanitary or messy places can provide ideal conditions for them to thrive, so food businesses must prioritize:
- Proper storage practices: Store food in tightly sealed containers at least six inches from the ground and two inches from the walls. Make sure containers don’t have cracks or other entry points. Use white painter’s tape around the edge of the floor to remind employees not to store food against walls and to make it easier to see signs of pests.
- Efficient waste control: Remove garbage from the premises frequently and ensure it’s collected regularly. Line indoor containers with plastic bags, and clean and sanitize garbage and recycling bins frequently.
- Proper sanitation procedures: Cut off cockroaches’ access to food by cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces, utensils and equipment at least once a day, and removing grease or food residues from equipment regularly. Implement a cleaning schedule to ensure nothing gets missed.
Recognize the signs of cockroach infestation, and act right away
Food businesses should monitor for signs of cockroach or other pest infestations regularly. Other than seeing the insect itself, other signs are brown, oval-shaped droppings that sometimes look like coffee grounds. Oval-shaped egg cases and a strong oily or musty smell can also indicate a cockroach problem.
If you spot a cockroach, you must act immediately to control and eradicate the infestation.
Methods for eradicating a cockroach infestation
If it’s too late to prevent an infestation, implementing these methods immediately can help rid the business of cockroaches:
- Sprays: Proceed with caution when using sprays. Though they can directly exterminate visible cockroaches, they can cause chemical contamination if they’re used in an environment where food is stored, prepared or served. If you must use sprays, only do so when the kitchen is not in use, and move any utensils or equipment out of the way first. Always clean and sanitize the area afterwards.
- Poisonous bait: Baiting is designed to lure cockroaches toward a poison, e.g. a gel, containing a delayed-action insecticide, which cockroaches ingest and spread through the colony. Baiting is an effective control method, but risks of chemical contamination means this method should be used carefully in a commercial kitchen.
- Traps: Because traps such as glue boards don’t contain poison, there’s no risk of chemical contamination if you use them in your food businesses. But they only trap a few cockroaches at a time, so they may not be all that effective in eliminating an infestation.
The Canadian Institute of Food Safety (CIFS) offers a range of training and resources to help food businesses prevent potential food safety issues before they arise. Use our Guide to Pest Prevention and Control to better understand the risks of cockroaches and other pests infesting your business, and gain useful tips for pest prevention and safe eradication.