How to Pass Every NEA Food Shop Inspection

Out of 137 F&B outlets suspended in 2015, more than half were due to pest-related issues. Clearly, having a monthly pest control contract doesn’t mean that your outlet will be pest-free. We asked a pest control expert with over 30 years’ experience how to minimise pest problems and stay off the NEA’s radar.

The 3 pests that can get you suspended are rats, cockroaches, and houseflies, because they spread disease. It’s important to keep your outlet pest-free not only to avoid getting demerit points, but because it’s your responsibility to your customers.

The golden rule: Do not provide conducive environments for pests to breed and hide. Do not provide food sources for them when the operation is closed.

That’s it.

 Know Your Pests

Cockroaches: Singapore has two types – American cockroaches (bigger, found in drains) and German cockroaches (smaller), which are the ones in F&B outlets.

German cockroaches are nocturnal and like warm, moist places. Once their harbourages are found, cockroach extermination can be immediate. The cockroach gel which most pest control operators use can wipe out the whole population.

Houseflies are attracted to food residue and can be exterminated once pest control identifies and clears their source (usually an external breeding site), and the F&B operator cleans their outlet. They can carry diseases like Salmonella and E.coli.

Rats are attracted to food debris and enter the establishment through pipes, drains, and open kitchen doors. They are nocturnal, and come and go as they like. Sometimes they hide in piles of redundant stock in your storeroom. Rodent control is challenging because the NEA does not allow the use of poison bait in F&B. Glue boards are used instead to trap rats when they are in the outlet, but they can only reduce the population, so rodent pest control has to be continuous.

 How to spot an infestation before your customers do?

An F&B business’ reputation takes years to build but split seconds to destroy.

The problem is that more and more F&B owners are not present during day-to-day operations. The employees just do their job: they cook and collect money; but don’t particularly care about the cleanliness or appearance of the place. Operators or managers need to do weekly checks at least.

Some places cockroaches hide in:

  • cracks and crevices
  • the spaces within equipment
  • drink dispensers
  • drawers
  • your cash register (because there is warmth in the space below, from your computer hardware)
  • steam baskets used in dimsum restaurants

Tell-tale signs

Rats: They have bad eyesight so they lean against walls when they travel, leaving behind smear marks from the dirt and oils on their bodies. Following the smear marks will reveal how the rats enter your outlet.

Cockroaches: Besides seeing actual cockroaches, you’ll see droppings. Pay attention to the gaps between table stands/ legs and the table surface, wire conduits, door frames, corrugated sheets in cardboard boxes and broken wall tiles.

 Monthly Pest control maintenance is not enough

It takes two hands to clap. No matter how good the pest control operator is, how experienced they are, or how expensive their preparations are, if the F&B owner does not cooperate in terms of housekeeping, it’s useless. During routine maintenance, pest control will:

  1.  Ask managers or the kitchen staff what the issues are;
  2. Do the inspection;
  3. Do the treatment,
  4. Give the outlet a report and inform the manager what has been done, and what needs to be done by the operator.

It’s a monthly affair, and while most months may be good, you can receive a shipment of 20 cartons one day and they can be full of cockroaches. Being vigilant and maintaining cleanliness has to be constant.

How can F&B operators maintain a pest-free environment?

  • Housekeeping is taught as a part of the Food Safety Course. Practise it.
  • Fix broken wall tiles, blocked floor traps and other areas that might harbour pests quickly.
  • Don’t keep redundant stocks in the storeroom.
  • Have proper racking in the storeroom or kitchens, don’t pile stock up in a corner. Everything must be raised above the floor.
  • Be sure to inspect new shipments of raw material (vegetable baskets, egg trays, carton boxes…)
  • Always keep the kitchen bin covered
  • Clear unused food trays quickly

Common Mistakes

Not washing cloths thoroughly/ using sanitizer. Sometimes apparently clean tables still attract houseflies. If the cloths for wiping tables with are not washed properly, they still carry food residue that is spread on the tables.

Not wiping down chairs. Sometimes houseflies buzz around chairs. Chances are, diners have moved the chairs with dirty hands, leaving food residue on them.

Thinking that not seeing any rats means no rats. Nowadays most of our drains are covered – but what’s happening below the drain covers is the same. Once there is a heavy rain, rats will come out of the drains. When there are food crumbs and debris, there will be rats even if you don’t see them.

Rats and cockroaches are nocturnal, so if you see them in the daytime, bad news: that means it’s overcrowded!

Using UV light bug zappers to stop houseflies in outdoor dining areas. They are good for enclosed areas because once houseflies come in, it is difficult for them to fly out. Placing bug zappers outdoors, however, will attract other insects to your operations. For al fresco areas, use sanitiser to clean the tables.

Not washing the kitchen floor properly. Washing only the exposed kitchen floor with water and brooms is pointless. While it may appear clean, food crumbs and debris are flushed under the food preparation tables where they get stuck and start attracting rats and cockroaches.

Not washing trays and wooden serving boards. Restaurants that serve food on hotplates wash their hotplates, but not the wooden boards they are placed upon. These wooden boards often have food residue that will attract houseflies and breed bacteria. Serving trays should be cleaned immediately after they are cleared.

Cheryl Tay is the editor and marketer at iCHEF Singapore. She also manages iCHEF Club, a growing community of F&B owners in Singapore – organising events, an online newsletter and the F&B Entrepreneur Bootcamp, the only regular workshop on opening a new restaurant in the country. In her spare time, she attempts to read every book that’s ever won a literary prize and watches cat videos. Like any proper Singaporean, her love for food runs deep – especially spicy food. Chili is life. 


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