For commercial kitchens, specified daily, weekly, and monthly sanitation and hygiene protocols are essential. These protocols must not only be stated on easy-to-follow checklists for the kitchen staff to follow, but it is also imperative that the kitchen manager has proper oversight to ensures that they are being implemented. Paper directives mean little if they are not enforced. Best of all, over time, kitchen protocols become routine for the kitchen staff and are done automatically. While pest infestations sometimes seem inevitable in high-traffic areas where food is being cooked and stored, a vigilant kitchen staff can make all the difference in preventing infestations and, should they do occur, minimize their severity and make it easier for the pest control professional to treat (because, for example, fewer harborage areas and less food sources).
Sometimes, it’s the little things that are easily overlooked that can wind up causing serious pest problems down the road. For example, during my inspection of one of our accounts, a commercial kitchen in MonroeTownship, NJ, I found an innocuous-looking piece of cardboard that was being used as a mat for the kitchen’s meat slicer. I immediately contacted the kitchen manager to explain why this makeshift mat was a bad idea.
First, in this case, the meat juices and food scraps from the slicer saturate the porous cardboard underneath it like a sponge, making it an attractant for roaches, ants, mice, and other food-foraging pests. Also, the cardboard and paper products that we regularly use are made of organic materials — it’s easy to forget that these boxes were once trees! Roaches are one of the hardiest, most resilient insects on the plant. They are able to eat virtually anything as a food source, including the paper pulp that’s used to make cardboard as well as the glue that holds the boxes together. Also, cardboard provides ideal harborage for roaches. The boxes, with all their nooks and crannies, provide a nice dark place for roaches to hide and live. A cardboard box is made of three layers, a flute, that wavy piece of cardboard that gives a box its strength and protection, sandwiched between two pair liners. Roaches love the spaces of that wavy middle layer. It’s not only a great place for them to lay their eggs, but they love to hang out there. Insects love to feel pressure on all side of their body when they are hiding. Feeling the pressure on all sides makes them feel safe (think swaddled babies!) and keeps them out of sight.
I explained to the manager that cardboard should never be used in a commercial kitchen for any reason. Time and time again, I’ve seen pest infestations develop because insects and their eggs are hidden in boxes brought into a facility. Just because your kitchen is spotless does not mean that the food and other items transported in cardboard boxes came from facilities with the same standards as yours! When it comes to cardboard boxes, the safest kitchen protocol is for all boxes to be broken down immediately upon being emptied after a delivery and then taken outside the premises for recycling. If possible, the boxes should be summarily inspected for possible insect activity before they are even brought into the kitchen. I can’t stress enough the importance of preventative measures when it comes to pest control, especially for restaurants and other businesses involved in food preparation and storage.
The kitchen manager understood the risk of having cardboard int he kitchen and told me the meat slicer “mat” would be immediately discarded and his kitchen thereafter would be a cardboard-free zone! He was grateful for the information. Pest control is more than applying products. Often, it’s about educating your customers to take proactive measures to prevent future infestations by eliminating food and water sources as well as potential insect harborage areas.