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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Mouse Infestation - A Food Safety Problem In Food Establishment.

Mice - The Uninvited Dinner Guests To Local Eateries




Mice can be a public health hazard as they can carry pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, parasite including fleas and can potentially transmit diseases from mice to humans. Mice can live and breed in houses, buildings including food establishments and other structures such as garages and storage sheds. Mice can survive on a relatively poor diet as they can eat a few grams (ounces) of food per day and can survive without daily access to water as mice can obtain water from food source they are feeding on.

Mice are excellent climbers and are capable of entering any building through a small hole that is the size of a dime (1/4 inch or 6.4 mm) or larger. Mice are nibblers and they can feed as often as 15 to 20 times each day but they left behind wastes such as droppings and urine around food they are feeding on. The average lifespan of a mouse is approx. 12 months and a single female mouse may have as many as 8 litters per year, averaging 5 to 6 babies in each litter, the young can start reproducing usually within 3 months.

Recently, Toronto public health inspectors closed 7 food establishments within 1 week due to pest infestation, including 5 food establishments in a Toronto Food Market building due to heavy mouse infestation as posted on DineSafe website in Toronto

(Photo: CTV News)
Full article: Food market closed by public health inspectors

Mouse control for food establishments

To prevent a mouse infestation in food establishments such as restaurants, food markets, cafe, hospital kitchens, school cafeterias, warehouses and even street food carts, vigilance is perhaps most important. In 
order to keep a food establishment rodent-free, the first step is to develop an effective rodent management, monitoring and control plan. 

Once the rodent control plan and the sanitation protocols have been established, operators have to follow them continually. Actions such as conducting daily checks and fixing problems once identified can help to bring an infestation under control in the early stage. 

Prevention is less costly and can prevent unnecessary public complaints and closure by public health inspector due to public health and food safety regulation violations as specified in Toronto Public Health's DineSafe program. The following steps can help food establishment owner and manager to operate and to maintain a rodent-free establishment.


Monitor the property for mouse activities

  • Monitor the establishment for for signs of mouse activities. Look for droppings, burrows, chewed or gnawed holes in bags and boxes containing food or
    garbage, gnaw marks on walls and surfaces in all areas of the food establishment. (photo - right)
  • Mice love to nest in locations close to food, spaces in double walls, between ceilings and floors and under and behind counters. 
  • Inspect and keep the exterior perimeter and the garbage storage area free of junk, weeds and debris to eliminate rodent nesting areas.
  • Mouse droppings around food can be a good indication of an active mouse infestation (photos - below).



Improve sanitation, eliminate food and nesting sites 

  • Secure and cover garbage or waste containers to prevent rodents from getting food. Use rodent-proof bins with tight-fitting lids.
  • Get rid of junks and clutter to prevent hiding spots.
  • Eliminate food source for mice. Since the contributing factor to a mouse infestation is the presence of food, always store foods in sealed containers and never leave unprotected food out overnight as this can attract and provide a food source to mice. 
  • Keep kitchen areas clean, especially food preparation, storage and serving areas.
  • Seal all openings to the outside, especially around doors and windows.


Prevent mice from entering food establishment

  • Inspect the outside of the food establishment to identify rodent entry points, including small holes the size of a dime (1/4 inch or 6.4 mm).
  • Use heavy gauge wire mesh to cover vents or large openings.
  • Use metal sheeting to cover holes.
  • Keep garbage area clean as spilled garbage, food waste, grease, liquid waste and junk can provide food and nesting area for rodent. (photo below)


Hire a licensed pest control professional to provide rodent control treatment

  • Ensure the bait stations used by the pest control professional are enclosed and locked, and placed in areas that are inaccessible to customers, especially children.
  • Most pest control companies use bait blocks (anticoagulant) to control rodents (mice and rats), ensure they are secured with wire and not placed around food and utensils to prevent contamination.
  • Be aware that poison bait can lead to secondary poisoning if placed outside the food establishment such as the garbage storage area (for example, wild animals or dogs and cats may become ill after eating rodents poisoned by bait).


Continue to monitor the effectiveness of the control measures

  • Conduct daily inspection throughout the food establishment to identify new evidence of rodent activities and to maintain a clean, sanitary environment. 
  • Clean up rodent droppings as soon as they are observed so that detecting any new activity is apparent.
  • Continue to maintain sanitation and rodent proofing as preventive strategies.


How to get a PASS from public health inspector 

on your next restaurant inspection


Video


(Photo and comics from Health Inspector's Notebook)

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