Since 2017, Fullerton restaurants Leadbelly’s Barbecue, Twin Dragon, Pho Olivia, and Thailandia have all been cited by the Orange County health department for cockroach violations. All restaurants have since gone through reinspections and been cleared.
Vermin pose a major threat to restaurant health and safety, with rodents and cockroaches being two of the major offenders.
Rodents spread disease in restaurants through urine and feces droppings that come in contact with food, utensils or surfaces touching food, and they’re known to transmit a variety of diseases worldwide. Salmonella and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome are some of the most common diseases associated with rodents.
A hantavirus infection can progress to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a brutal and potentially fatal respiratory disease with a 38 percent mortality rate. A total of 728 cases of hantavirus have been reported as of January 2017 with 61 coming from California.
Rodent infestation at restaurants can be detected through droppings, gnaw marks and rub marks along the walls.
Cockroaches are another type of vermin that are known to be found in food facilities, and like rodents, they crawl over food, utensils, equipment and food contact surfaces. The types of diseases they carry range from dysentery, diarrhea, cholera, leprosy and typhoid fever.
Stephanie Wilkins-Singleton, food protection program manager at the OC Health Care Agency, said cockroaches are usually nocturnal, but when there’s an infestation they come out during the daytime.
“Stronger ones push the weaker ones out,” said Wilkins-Singleton. “The evidence will be that (inspectors) will either see evidence of live cockroaches or they’ll see dead ones.”
Cockroaches spread diseases and germs from feeding off contaminated human feces and human food, according to the World Health Organization.
Because of its saliva, feces and shedding body parts, Cockroaches have allergens that can trigger asthma attacks and allergies, according to American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
A clean facility free of any crevices, along with a thorough inspection of all incoming deliveries, is the best way for restaurants to prevent vermin infestation, according to a food safety and sanitation manual by the Orange County Health Care Agency.
“It’s not to say that you can keep out vermin entirely because they’re in the environment, but if you have a well-sealed facility kept clean and you don’t give them a food source or water source, you should be fine,” Wilkins-Singleton said.
Evidence of rodent and cockroach activity can warrant a health permit suspension, however, Wilkins-Singleton said the facility can demand a reinspection at any time and the restaurant can be reopened if there is no further evidence of infestation.