According to the National Restaurant Association, 2020 saw restaurant revenues reach $659 billion, a decline of more than 25 percent from expected amounts. But as the COVID-19 pandemic starts to wane, consumer demand has begun to ramp up — and the need for pest control services for restaurants is also increasing. Everyone understands that no restaurant customer wants to encounter a skittering cockroach and that cooks would cringe if they found rat droppings. But pest control regulations for restaurants mean that restaurateurs risk more than their reputations if they run a dirty establishment. They could also get shut down.
In this post, we will discuss food hygiene law in the United States, specific restaurant pest control procedures and restaurant pest control checklists, and what to expect during an inspection.
Food Law in the US Regarding Pests
In other countries, food law is relatively simple: A national governing body passes down guidelines to which everyone must adhere. However, because the United States is a federal republic with 50 distinct states, restaurant pest control requirements and other food-safety requirements get complicated.
According to its official mission statement, the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) “is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.” That’s a lot of regulatory ground to cover, and food safety is only one small part of it. Most of the food-applicable regulation comes from the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was signed into law in 2011.
FSMA includes seven fundamental rules, two of which would seem to apply to restaurants: preventive controls for human food and sanitary transportation. FSMA also incorporates Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), a once-private food-safety approach that focuses on monitoring certain metrics and keeping records regarding them. However, there’s just one small issue, an issue noted by Richard Williams of Mercatus Center: “FDA is actually going after the wrong area of the food supply. … FDA notes that most food safety problems occur in places are not covered by FSMA: restaurants, other retail establishments, and homes.” To reiterate, restaurants are places that aren’t covered by either FSMA or HACCP.
Where then do restaurant-applicable laws and regulations come from? They come from the individual states. The FDA even provides a compilation of links to state retail and food service codes.
Food Hygiene Law that Could Prevent Pests
Because there are 50 states that all have their own regulations, nailing down restaurant pest control requirements that apply to everyone might seem impossible. And, yes, while plenty of variations occur, pest control regulations for restaurants do share some commonalities from state to state. In general, food-service codes will generally have six laws or regulations to which restaurants will need to adhere. These include:
- Food Storage: Most regulations focus on correctly storing food to prevent bacteria growth and concomitant food-borne illness.
- Employee Cleanliness: Employees should take basic precautions to avoid spreading illness to customers, such as regular hand washing, avoiding working while ill, not using nail polish, and taking precautions to secure hair.
- Work Safety: Workers and employees must take steps to prevent fires, slips, falls, cuts, contusions, thermal and chemical burns, and similar injuries.
- Employee and Customer Safety: Restaurants must have multiple emergency exits.
- Alcohol Requirements: Restaurants must meet state and local regulations in order to serve alcohol.
- Food Service Licensing: All restaurants must get a food-service license, which requires regular inspections to determine the physical state of the property and its cleanliness.
Out of all of these more-or-less-common regulations, two of them directly apply to pest control in restaurants: food storage and food-service licensing. In order to meet food-storage requirements and to earn (and maintain!) licensing, managers will need to determine how to control pest in restaurants.
US Food Safety and Storage
As we mentioned above, food storage best practices generally concern things such as:
- Rotating stocks
- Correctly labeling items
- Storing meat at low temperatures
- Disposing of food if left at room temperature for a certain length of time
However, food storage also has a natural connection with pest control. Pest control functions on two universal principles: 1) Exclude the pests; and 2) sanitize the surroundings. Proper food-storage techniques can go a long way toward ensuring that your consumables remain safe and you never run afoul of regulations.
What do those techniques look like? For starters, keeping as much food as possible in airtight containers simply makes sense. So does not storing food directly on the floor. When it comes to pest prevention, gravity isn’t your friend. It carries food and liquid down to the floor, and if your stored food is there, pests will attempt to get into it. For those wondering how to do pest control in kitchen with such an arrangement, invest in either elevated shelves or storage trolleys with lockable wheels. These will allow you to more easily clean all of the floor space and around major equipment.
Related exclusion techniques that don’t directly correlate with food storage include regularly changing and sealing air filters so that pests can’t gain entrance, repairing any structural cracks located near stored food, and regularly emptying trash.
Inspections and Extermination for Restaurants
Let’s consider that second aspect of effective pest control: sanitation. It’s important for multiple reasons, not the least of which being that it plays an outsize role in forming your local restaurant inspector’s impression about the cleanliness of your establishment. An inspect involves a government employee conducting a snap inspection of your establishment over the span of a couple hours. Staying sanitized and free of pests needs to become second nature.
For virtually all restaurants, that should involve employing pest control for restaurants. How often should pest control be done in a restaurant depends largely on your specific site, but once or twice a month should suffice for most cases. In addition to you keeping your site clean, an integrated pest control service will involve a pest control company conducting its own thorough inspection, identifying any pest problems, removing the offending pests, and remediating any issues that led to the current situation. Integrated pest control is a practice that remains friendly to people and the environment. It’s an ideal way to ensure that your restaurant stays sanitized.
Being Proactive can Save Your Reputation (and Your Business)
Sometimes restaurant owners ask how much should pest control cost and wonder if they could simply handle it themselves. However, such an approach has numerous downsides. Not only does it add to a restaurateur’s already busy schedule, it runs the risk of seeing the business shut down if an inspector discovers a problem. And once your professional reputation gets dinged, it’s incredibly difficult to draw diners back.
Trust your restaurant to Smithereen Pest Management Services! We have over one-hundred years of professional pest-control experience. Contact us today!