The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)—along with local states, counties, and cities—require compliance with a multitude of safety standards for the handling and distribution of food items by grocery stores, supermarkets, and food preparation manufacturers in order to help protect public health from foodborne diseases.
In addition to these directives, customer quality and safety expectations also place a lot of pressure and responsibility on retail food distribution and handling establishments. Pests within a grocery business introduce health hazards to foods. Violations of the FDA Food Code or other local codes and policies carry substantial consequences, which could include hefty fines, temporary closure of your business, and damage to your reputation.
Pest Control Challenges for Grocery Stores
Stopping the penetration of pests into a retail food stores can seem like a never-ending battle, as these establishments offer an abundance of basic needs for pests: food, water, and shelter. Vendor deliveries and customer traffic supply plenty of opportunities for pests to obtain access into a store; some pests are able to hitchhike their way inside via food and shipping containers as well as within some food deliveries themselves.
Once inside, these pests have a large space in which to hide and seek cover. Pest are likely to take shelter under shelves, in bathrooms, in areas with significant amounts of moisture (i.e. meat and produce departments), loading docks/warehouses, and near garbage disposal areas. All pests are capable of contaminating and transferring diseases as they climb or fly over foods and food preparation areas. Besides depositing fecal matter, they also transfer pathogens picked up on their feet or legs.
Common Grocery Store Pests and How to Prevent Them
Ants make their way indoors in order to take advantage of unsanitary conditions. They are capable of spreading many foodborne disease organisms, such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Shigella. They transfer these diseases by crawling over feces and decaying matter while foraging for food and moisture. Clean up spills immediately; keep rotting produce outside in a dumpster and away from your building.
Cockroaches love warm, moist areas. They are usually picked up via paper products such as cardboard boxes and paper grocery bags. Besides inspecting all deliveries for signs of infestations, perform regular checks for leaking pipes. Immediately break down cardboard boxes, and remove them from your facility to an outdoor disposal area. Keep kitchens, delis, bakeries, and other food preparation areas clean and tidy.
Food warehouses and larger grocery stores provide protection from predators and ideal areas for birds to nest. Birds can cause structural damage to buildings: their nests and feathers can block gutters, and droppings and nest material can contaminate surfaces and food as well as dirty parking lots, entry ways, and loading docks. Installing bird blocks or spikes and repairing any entry points can help to deter them elsewhere.
There are a variety of fly species which can be attracted to grocery stores, including fruit flies, drain flies, house flies, and phorid flies. Each of these are attracted to food odors, sugary substances, garbage, grease, rotting meat, and decaying matter or produce. Common areas of infestations are garbage and food storage areas. Flies can contaminate food and spread disease by feeding on trash, feces, and other decaying material, and then landing on food prep areas or other surfaces.
The abundance of food and water provided by grocery stores and supermarkets is extremely attractive to rodents, and the shelter from predators allows for rapid population growth.
Besides contaminating and damaging food, food containers, and displays, rodents are capable of causing structural damage to your building and electrical components. Rodents can gain access to your business through extremely small holes: the size of a dime for mice, and the size of a quarter for rats. Perform regular maintenance checks of your building for access points, and immediately repair any found.
Stored Products Pests (SPPs)
Stored Product Pests or “pantry pests” includes moths, beetles, and weevils. Grains and dried goods are in danger of infestation from this type of pest; good sanitation and proper storage are key to prevention. Although it can be a significant loss, it’s important to destroy any products in which these pests have developed.
Ensure employees are diligent and know what to look for while inspecting deliveries for signs of infestations. Signs of an infestation may include:
- Damaged products (such as holes in packaging or product itself)
- Live/dead insects, larvae, eggs, or webbing on food/food bins
- Sightings of small beetles, moths, and caterpillars
Best Practices for Preventing Grocery Store Pests
Developing and implementing effective practices and procedures can help your store avoid a pest infestation. This can include:
- Ensuring all vendors are FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) compliant
- Implementing and enforcing strict sanitation policies amongst staff
- Educating staff regarding signs of pest activity and conducive conditions
- Inspecting all deliveries upon receipt for signs of pest infestations
- Following proper waste disposal practices
- Eliminating opportunities for entry, such as:
- Sealing all cracks, windows, and pipes
- Keeping doors closed when not in use (especially for garbage and waste disposal areas)
- Ensuring all doors do not have any gaps and are installed with door sweeps
- Keeping all store and storage areas clean
- Inspecting pipes, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, and drink dispensers for leaks
- Ensuring all doorways have air curtains
- Installing and maintaining monitoring devices
- Maintaining at least an 18” gap between walls and shelving
Sentinel Pest Control is your trusted local expert for pest management solutions. Our inspectors will thoroughly evaluate your store and tailor a custom program to help protect your staff, your customers, and your reputation along with your bottom line.
Contact us for a complimentary initial inspection!