Trading Standards Institute Advice

Pest control in a food business: cockroaches

This leaflet is for all food businesses including those involved in food preparation and production, retail premises, catering businesses, restaurants, pubs, cafes, and takeaway and fast-food shops.

The cockroach problem
Cockroaches will feed on nearly anything from food crumbs to animal faeces. They may live in sewers and can spread disease.

Cockroaches spread bacteria that cause food poisoning and other diseases which can be carried in food or water, including dysentery and Salmonella. Bacteria are spread when the cockroaches' body, their droppings or regurgitated food they leave behind comes into contact with food equipment, surfaces and food that your customers will eat.

Cockroaches carry allergens, which can lead to an allergic reaction such as dermatitis, bronchitis and asthma.

They may also physically contaminate food by dying in food they are feeding on or falling into glasses, cooking pots and baking trays.

Large infestations of cockroaches produce a very unpleasant smell, which can also taint or affect the taste or smell of food and drink.

Cockroaches do not like the light and they usually only come out at night from under floorboards, behind sinks and cookers, from drains and from cracks in badly maintained walls and kitchen units. They can get through very small gaps and move between rooms through gaps around water pipes and through ducts. You may see them scuttling away if you turn the lights on in dark kitchens and basements.

Types of cockroach
There are two common species found in the UK: German and Oriental.

German cockroaches like living in and around food areas, such as in restaurants, cafes and hotels. They are quite small - about 13mm to 16mm long - and are light brown with two darker lines going from the head to the wings. Although German cockroaches have wings, they are unable to fly very far. Each female cockroach can produce up to 40 eggs at any one time and, depending on conditions, in three to four months these eggs can develop into adult cockroaches and breed to create the next generation of cockroaches.

Oriental cockroaches are larger than German cockroaches (approximately 25mm long) and are a dark reddish brown colour, sometimes almost black. They can live in nearly any environment. They are able to withstand lower temperatures than the German cockroach, so they can live outdoors around drains and dustbin areas. The adult male has leathery front wings that cover three-quarters of the length of its body, but the female's wings are much smaller. 

Control methods
A well-designed and well-maintained building will go a long way to prevent a cockroach infestation.

Untidy or unused cupboards, and cupboards you do not check regularly, will encourage cockroaches.

Keep all areas leading from outside yards, waste-storage areas, connecting corridors and toilets clear of rubbish and in good repair.

Fill in any gaps behind wall panels if possible. Make sure wall coverings, such as tiles, are well maintained to prevent cockroaches from getting in.

Replace cracked and broken flooring.

Consider having new cleanable and hard-wearing flooring properly laid with welded seams, coved and capped to the wall. This will make it easier to clean properly and help to prevent dirt from building up.

Dripping taps and pipes and other water leaks should be repaired immediately.

Store waste bins outside, and make sure they have fitted lids which are kept closed. The bins need to be large enough to store all the waste produced.

To help keep cockroaches away, it is important to keep to good hygiene routines, especially in food-preparation areas. Premises that are designed to be easy to clean, with good cleaning practices and with food safely stored are essential to reduce the possibility of infestation.

Lockable wheels on tables where you prepare food, ovens, fryers, fridges and dishwashers will mean you can move them easily so you can thoroughly clean around and behind them, and check for any signs of pests regularly.

Check food as soon as it is delivered, and look for insects in food and packaging, to help prevent cockroaches from entering the building.

Keep to a 'clean as you go' policy and make sure you clean up any food waste and liquid spills straightaway.

Clean up any water spills immediately - cockroaches like moist environments and need water to survive. They can live for a month without food, but only a week without water.

Checking for cockroaches
As long as food and warmth are available cockroaches may even contaminate premises with excellent cleaning routines.

The best time to check for cockroaches is when it is dark. Use a torch to check the areas cockroaches are most likely to be found in.

Sticky traps are available and you can put these in appropriate areas such as beneath equipment, in roof spaces, ducting and behind counters. If these traps catch cockroaches, it is a sign that you probably need to take more thorough action via help of a pest control contractor.

If you have cockroaches
It is difficult to get rid of cockroaches because it is hard to get insecticides to the large number of cockroaches and eggs hidden behind cracks and in gaps in the walls and behind cupboards and other such places. 

Many aerosols, powders and baits are available for treatment, but these should be used only by professional pest control contractors.

Insecticide treatments that you can buy from retailers may not be suitable for use in food premises and may not be as effective as those used by pest control companies. You may not notice any effect, or they may only show results for a short time. 

Your pest control contractor should plan a programme of treatments to totally destroy the infestation. Treatment should continue until all egg cases have hatched. Weekly treatments will probably be necessary to bring the infestation under control. 

Your pest control contractor may suggest maintenance treatments from time to time to make sure that the problem does not start again.

More information
You will find further guidance in our other leaflets on this website. Information can also be found on the Food Standards Agency website.

Alternatively, contact your local environmental health service for advice.

Please note
This leaflet is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance.

© 2018 itsa Ltd.