Nova Scotia

Construction, colder weather pose pesty problem for downtown Halifax restaurants

Nova Scotia's food safety regulations require food establishments to have effective control of insects, rodents, and other pests, which means keeping them out of restaurants altogether.

'Great restaurant operators will be great at making sure there's very few pests,' says pest control operator

Mice are typically more common than rats in restaurants, says Andrew Wheelock, owner of Truly Nolen Pest Control and Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control in Halifax. (Robert Corrigan/Columbia University)

With the abrupt change to cooler weather in Nova Scotia over the last couple weeks, mice and rats may be looking for warmer spots to take shelter, including your favourite spots to eat.

In downtown Halifax, the problem is exacerbated thanks to construction projects happening throughout the city and many eateries being located in older buildings, said Karen Wong-Petrie, director of the province's environmental health and food safety program.

"Good construction can go a long way in keeping those rodents out," she said. "Oftentimes though, just because of the nature of a lot of our establishments, the door is open frequently, there's patios, those types of things can encourage entry even if you have a really well-constructed building."

Nova Scotia's food safety regulations require food establishments to effectively control insects, rodents and other pests to keep them off the premises.

Wong-Petrie said many businesses in downtown Halifax have pest control companies come on a regular basis to keep critters away.

Mice and rats are able to get into restaurants by squeezing through tiny holes or because doors are left open. (Steve Berry/CBC)

"You want to make sure you're keeping a clean and organized space, and organization is just as important as cleanliness," said Andrew Wheelock, owner of Truly Nolen Pest Control and Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control in Halifax.

"They don't just magically appear inside a building."

Wheelock said businesses should seal off any entry areas from the outside to the inside of the building, and keep spaces tidy to reduce a rodent's ability to find shelter.

He said mice are typically more common in restaurants than rats, but they're also harder to get rid of completely.

"It can penetrate the building through a smaller entry hole, so in order to keep a mouse out of a building, you need a greater level of detail than a rat simply due to their physical size," Wheelock said.

How long it typically takes restaurants to comply

Wong-Petrie said if a restaurant is given a violation for having pests — either from a routine inspection or through a complaint — the length of time they have to rectify the problem depends on the severity of the infestation and willingness of the operator to comply.

"It's typically two weeks and we would want to see some progressive improvement throughout that facility," she said.

From there, if the business isn't complying, the inspection officers can move to more punitive measures, such as a permit suspension.

"Typically, permanent closure is not something that we do because most people that have permits that are suspended will come into compliance fairly quickly," she said.

"That tends to be a very effective tool, although it does have an impact on the facilities."

What a pest control expert looks for at a restaurant

Wheelock said when he visits restaurants as a customer, he looks for organization, cleanliness and how the business is operated.

"I suspect that when there's good service, good staff, that's going to trickle right down to food quality, pest control, whatever they do," he said.

"So, great restaurant operators will be great at making sure there's very few pests in their building."

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