Dining with Danger

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What Health Risks Do Pests Pose to You, Your Staff, and Your Guests?

The Danger

One of the greatest fears on the mind of every restaurant is that one of our guests could get sick from food that we served. This is why proper food handling procedures, sanitation, temperature, etc. are so vitally important to our day to day operations.

But health risks are also why excellent pest elimination practices are absolutely essential in our restaurants. Even the most cursory examination of the topic of pests will reveal that these creatures can be vectors of disease, and while this year everyone will be thinking about mosquitoes and the Zika virus, (and rightfully so), there already exists the potential for serious human health risks in the pests that are currently surrounding your restaurant. Here are a few to be aware of:


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Few creatures make us recoil as much as the cockroach, whether it’s German, Oriental, American, or any of the other 3,500 species that inhabit earth. But more than their physical appearance, we must be aware of the grave health risks cockroaches pose to our diners and staff should they enter our food service establishment.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed over 40 different pathogens that cockroaches carry that are transferrable to human beings. These include bubonic plague, infectious hepatitis, leprosy, pneumonia, polio, salmonella, and typhoid fever just to name a few. They are also responsible for food poisoning, nematode worms and internal parasites. Furthermore, their dander has been linked to both allergies and asthma.

Cockroaches have the capability to live almost anywhere, including our kitchens, our deliveries, our storage areas, even our dining rooms. Their capacity to infect our staff and customers cannot be overstated.


When we think about diseases carried by rodents, many of us think only of the black plague of medieval history. The reality is that the common mouse and the Norway rat pose a number of serious health risks to patrons and employees of our restaurants. Rodent expert Robert Corrigan lists nearly twenty contagious diseases carried by mice and rats. A few of these include food poisoning, Hantavirus, Lyme disease, Trichinosis, Rickettsial pox, rabies, and Weil’s disease, among others.

The word “rodent” is from the Latin verb meaning “to gnaw,” and that’s exactly what rodents do, constantly gnawing their way into your establishment and seeking to spoil your products. And as they find their way into your restaurant they leave behind droppings, urine, and sebum (the oil from their hair), all of which can contaminate the food that you are about to set before your guests.

As bad as a rodent or roach sighting in our restaurant is, even worse would be a health incident where a guest is sickened because of pests. Understanding the seriousness of pests is the first step in avoiding these health dangers. In part two we will look at the health risks caused by stored product pests and flies, and we will discuss ways to protect ourselves and our guests.

Dr. Joel R. Grassi is an Accounts Manager at BHB Pest Elimination. He is certified Bed Bug Specialist and a NYS licensed applicator. If you would like him to provide you with a complimentary assessment of your restaurant as it relates to pest management, please contact him at 212-242-3383 or joel@bhbpest.com