Dealing with pests: Above and below the ground

Pests are an ongoing concern for owners and managers of catering outlets around the UK, who must maintain a constant mission to avoid unwanted guests on the premises. Rodents, insects and other creatures can cause huge problems for venues serving food and drink, leaving behind faeces and harmful bacteria, forcing Environmental Health to take action against the premises. The perennial challenge of keeping them at bay is part and parcel of operating a food business, but pests can be controlled with good housekeeping and prevention programmes.

How do pests enter my premises?

There are a number of obvious ways that pests can enter a catering outlet, and for the smaller pests (cockroaches, flies and beetles) this is namely through openings such as windows and gaps in walls. Installing insect-proof screens is a simple measure that can dramatically cut the risk of pests. There is also a more direct route that pests such as rodents take into kitchens; by nesting in packaging or food deliveries. Once they enter the premises they breed at a rapid rate, meaning infestations can become a huge problem in a matter of weeks. Inspecting all incoming packages will minimise this risk, as well as correctly disposing of the packaging. Unclean surfaces will always be attractive to pests, so maintaining the highest hygiene standards and clearing away clutter and rubbish as regularly as possible is vital in the fight against infestations. In a similar vein, goods going out of the kitchen can create a breeding zone for pests, particularly packaging and food that is being disposed of. Refuse areas are one of the most at-risk places for pest invasions, so these should also be treated with the same caution as the rest of the kitchen and must be clean and tidy at all times. But even if you take every precaution in terms of what is above the surface, there remains a danger lurking beneath the ground that is important to combat if you want to stay ahead in the war against pests.

Pests beneath the surface

Displaced joints and fractures in underground pipework allow rodents and cockroaches access to drains that lead into premises. These gaps might be small, but they create the perfect entry point for rats and insects, which then go in search of food and shelter. Once in the pipework, rodents thrive on food debris and fats, oil and grease (FOGs) that are washed down the sink and sluice areas. These items can contribute to a build-up of solid masses beneath the ground which snowball in the sewers to form ‘fatbergs’. These fatty lumps, held together by things such as disposable wipes, nappies, sanitary items and other objects that do not belong in the drain, create the perfect nests for creatures like rats and mice.

Taking measures such as avoiding pouring any FOGs and food debris down the drain will certainly minimise the appeal of the pipework to rodents and will have many other benefits to your business as a whole, as responsible behaviour will also help to avoid costly blockages. But that will not fix the displaced joints and fractures that allows rodents to enter the premises in the first place, and the creatures are skilled in foraging further up the pipework and into the building itself.

Treating the problem

The best way to avoid rodents entering this way in the first place is to conduct regular preventative maintenance in your drainage system. Innovative CCTV technology is a non-invasive way of doing this and is becoming increasingly relied upon by catering outlets and other commercial premises as a way to prevent problems from occurring. CCTV drain surveys provide drainage engineers with a clear picture of any given drain, sewer, septic tank or manhole. They can quickly detect exactly where the blockage, fracture or risk lies and what this looks like.

On many occasions, our engineers collect footage that identifies not only the fracture, but a host of pests such as rodents surrounding the entry point. They regularly come face-to-face with our cameras, producing alarming footage about what really lies beneath the surface. Once the problem is identified, our engineers are then able to fix it using the very latest technology to seal off the pipework and avoid creating an entry point for unwanted guests. Cured-In-Place Piping (CIPP) technology is most commonly used in these scenarios – also known as ‘no dig’ or ‘trenchless’ technology. CIPP minimises disruption and restores the integrity of the drain or sewer so that the problem is solved in the most cost-effective and convenient way.

When the drainage system is restored and all entry points are sealed, the onus is on the manager of the premises to ensure this is regularly maintained and that the drains are clear of any FOGs and food debris. This two-pronged approach will make it almost impossible for rodents to enter your premises via the drainage system, and those that do will be far less likely to remain without a source of food and shelter. Keeping ahead of the game when it comes to high standards of hygiene within the kitchen will place you in a strong position to minimise pest issues, but upholding these standards beneath the surface will bolster these efforts even further. Taking responsibility for the entire premises – not just the visible parts of the building – will bring rewards beyond just pest control and lead to smoother operations for the catering outlet as a whole.

By Richard Leigh, group development director of the civil engineering group which specialises in drainage and sewerage repair and railway works, Lanes Group plc

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