The true cost of poor preventive pest control

I’ve heard all the arguments:

  1. “We’re a small business and can’t really afford a preventive pest control contract.”
  2. “Our staff are very vigilant and will tell us if there is a problem.”
  3. “We can do that ourselves; it’s only setting a few traps.”
  4. “If the EHO finds a problem, we’ll address it. No point in wasting money on something that doesn’t bring in customers.”
  5. “It won’t happen to us.”

My answers to these would be:

  1. Can you really afford not to? Think about the impact of an infestation on your cash flow and the damage to your reputation.
  2. Are you sure they will?
  3. Is it only a few traps? Will they be regularly checked/cleaned/refilled? Will you have a paperwork trail to prove due diligence?
  4. Will they, or will they just close you down?
  5. How can you be certain it won’t happen to you?

If you run a business, there may be a thousand excuses not to take pest control seriously but here’s one that might make you think again…

Unlimited fines.

In 2021, a local supermarket chain in the West Midlands was forced to pay £556,191.20 in fines when mouse droppings were found in food. A sandwich shop franchisee was fined £20,928.77 in 2023 for breaching food hygiene, pest control and contamination regulations. A global fast food chain received a £497,190 fine when a customer found mouse droppings in their cheeseburger wrapper and EHO officers discovered the site in Leytonstone had an ongoing rodent infestation with more droppings in food preparation areas and a ‘decomposing’ mouse on a mop head.

While their fines are certainly large, they pale into insignificance compared to 2021’s £7.6 million fine for a national supermarket chain after EHOs found out-of-date products being sold in three stores in the West Midlands.

I say it again, unlimited fines!

It’s the responsibility of business owners to protect their employees, customers and any other person impacted by their operation (neighbours, workmen, etc.). Regulations relating to food safety don’t just apply if you are a business that sells or manufacturers food; they apply to every business. If you have a staff canteen or small kitchen area for your employees to heat their microwave lasagnes, then you fall under the scope of the Food Safety Act 1990. This requires ‘due diligence’ in terms of food safety, and a vital constituent of that is pest control.

On top of that, if a business is to undertake pest control on its own terms, then it needs to understand the requirements in various pieces of legislation, including:

  • Animal Welfare Act 2006 – only legally approved pest control methods can be used to minimise distress when capturing pest animals
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (Health and Safety at Work Act 1974) – if you use chemicals, they must be controlled and the appropriate paperwork (COSHH and Safety data Sheets) provided. Indiscriminate use of pesticides harm the environment and endanger children and pets
  • Public Health Acts 1936 and 1961 – employees and other stakeholders must be protected from vermin (rodents, insects, pigeons, etc.)
  • Wildlife and Countryside Act – some animals are protected. Can you be sure a non-professional pest control will not endanger protected species (for example, bees and bats), thereby potential landing you with a bug fine?

Finding a balance
Business owners often make the mistake of thinking preventive pest control is only about setting a few traps and, when they weigh that against the cost, decide it isn’t worth it. They are wrong. Effective pest control is about experience – e.g., finding the right spot to put the bait station – expertise – e.g., ensuring the correct levels of pesticide are used to get the job done but without endangering children, pets and the environment – and knowledge – e.g., meeting all regulatory requirements.

There is a balance, but the first thing to accept is that if you run a business you need to consider professional pest control. If you already have it, are you getting good value for money and the expertise you require. Some companies charge you the earth because of their name, but deliver only a standard service. Instead, work with a highly qualified local business and you will often get a far superior service.

In the end, can you afford not to take preventive pest control seriously?

I’ll say it one more time, unlimited fines!

We have considerable experience in helping businesses across London and the South-east ensure their properties remain pest-free. Call us on 020 8430 4133 or email here to discuss your requirements.

Photo by Vincent M.A. Janssen: