(Patricia Hottel is technical director at McCloud Services in South Elgin, IL, a leader in integrated pest management solutions serving the food supply chain of custody.)
The improper handling of water and organic debris in food facilities during food preparation and cleaning can contribute to pest problems such as cockroaches and small flies. The proper management of water in food facilities is crucial in reducing pest survival and contributes to the overall image of your brand.
Below are tips that can be helpful in reducing pest success in commercial kitchens due to moisture:
Beware of high-pressure hoses. High-pressure hoses are a more energy-efficient and less labor-intensive method for cleaning floors but have a tendency to push food debris into inaccessible areas. In addition, power washing can lead to more rapid deterioration of floor coatings and tile grout, increasing the attractiveness of floors for pest development. Mopping helps reduce these issues and is preferred. If mopping cannot be done, raising equipment off the floor can help reduce the organic debris collection points underneath the equipment. Where such design changes are not possible, place these hard-to-clean areas on a regular cleaning schedule to insure that food deposits are not available for pest development. In addition, placing equipment on wheels will help provide additional access for cleaning staff.
Use epoxy grouts instead of tile grout. Tile grout can deteriorate overtime allowing for organic material to accumulate between and underneath floor tiles. Epoxy grouts are now available, which are more resistant to high-pressure hoses than other grouting materials, and will last longer.
Clean floor mats daily. Floor mats are an area where moisture and organic debris can accumulate. Mats should be picked up each night to allow for proper floor cleaning and drying.
Clean ramps installed to move carts in and out of proofers, freezers and coolers. Areas sometimes neglected during the cleaning process are ramps. This can be another point where organic debris can be pushed during power washing of floors. Ramps either need to be tightly sealed or removed on a regular basis for proper cleaning.
Keep countertop cracks clean and sealed. Serving counters are designed with numerous cracks and crevices. It is hard to design them without some cracks and crevices and they are subject to lots of water and food spills. Place these countertops on a proper maintenance schedule to insure joints and edges are properly sealed. Sometimes what looks like sealant is caked food debris. Add a little moisture and we can have fruit fly or other small fly issues. Keep countertop cracks clean and sealed.
Avoid using partition walls. Partition walls, especially along cook lines, can be an area of cockroach harborage. A more open layout without partition walls is advised whenever possible.
Use flexible gas lines for cooking equipment. Flexible gas lines for cooking equipment are recommended so that the area behind the equipment can be accessed and cleaned. Due to the warmth of this area, it is an area common for cockroach activity.
Ensure that all floor drains can be easily accessed for cleaning. Unfortunately, floor drains used for water management can be located under equipment and cabinets. Hard-to-reach drains can be difficult to inspect and clean. If cabinets are located above a drain which staff cannot easily access for cleaning cut a hole in the cabinet so it can be accessed. Equipment on wheels can also help staff access floor drains. Special drain caps are now available to help seal drains to allow water flow into the drain while excluding pests.