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Pest control legislation affecting the hospitality sector

Businesses in the hospitality sector are expected to actively control pests under both food safety law and health and safety law (occupational safety and health law in the US). There is a duty of care to provide a safe environment on the premises for employees, customers, contractors and other people (CIEH, 2009). Businesses are therefore expected to employ qualified pest control professionals and to use safe and legal pest control methods.

In addition, the use of pesticides is controlled by environmental protection and health and safety laws for those carrying out pest control activities, wildlife protection law when wild animals (including birds) are controlled and law on cruelty to animals, which ensures humane methods of control.

To be effective, pest control activities in non-food areas should include:

  • Monitor the premises for signs of pests and conduct regular inspections; in hotels this should include guest rooms, especially mattresses and beds for bed bugs and fleas, and store rooms;
  • Survey the premises for maintenance issues that may lead to pest infestations;
  • Take corrective action as soon as possible; this should include taking guests out of infested rooms and closing the rooms until the pest has been eliminated;
  • Have a response plan for customer reports and complaints about pests and respond quickly

Food hygiene law

For kitchen and restaurant areas there is specific legislation regarding food safety. This generally has broad requirements for preventing contamination by pests under general hygiene and sanitation practices to prevent contamination of food.

The main legislation affecting food businesses in the EU is Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the Hygiene of Foodstuffs. Food business operators are required to “as far as possible prevent animals and pests from causing contamination” by taking “adequate measures, as appropriate”.

Businesses are required to conform to appropriate EU and national legislation on the control of hazards to prevent contamination, including from air, soil, water and biocides. They also have to take adequate measures to store and handle hazardous substances and waste in a way that prevents contamination.


Food law requires the implementation of HACCP principles, which include:

  • regular monitoring and inspection for signs of pests and any situation that may increase risk of pest infestations;
  • action taken to control the pests or remove the source of risk of infestation;
  • keeping records of incidences of pests and measures used to prevent, monitor and control pests.

Food premises

The layout, design, construction, siting and size of food premises must permit good food hygiene practices, including pest control. Food premises should be kept clean and maintained in good condition to prevent pest infestations.

Handling and storage of foodstuffs

Raw materials, ingredients and prepared foods must be kept in appropriate conditions that protect them from pests and direct and indirect contamination. Adequate procedures must also be in place to prevent pests accessing areas where food is prepared, handled or stored.

Food waste

Badly stored food waste attracts pests and increases the risk of contamination. Waste containers and the area where waste is stored can be a harbourage for a range of pests. The legislation specifies that:

  • food waste, non-edible by-products and other refuse must be removed from rooms where food is present as quickly as possible to avoid their accumulation;
  • food waste, non-edible by-products and other refuse must be placed in closable containers, or other types that can be shown to be appropriate and accepted by the relevant authority. The containers must be of an appropriate construction, kept in sound condition, be easy to clean and, where necessary, to disinfect;
  • businesses must make adequate provision for storage and disposal of food waste and associated refuse. The refuse storage area must be designed and managed so that they can be kept clean and, where necessary, free of animals and pests.

Training for food waste legislation

Food business operators must ensure that staff are supervised and trained in food hygiene appropriate for their work. This should include knowledge about the risks from pests and how to prevent contamination from pests.

US food safety legislation

Local agencies at state, city, county and tribal levels regulate food handling in smaller businesses including hotels and restaurants and catering services. The Food Code (produced jointly by the FDA, CDC and USDA) is offered as a reference document for local agencies to regulate food safety.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) generally excludes restaurants and retail food establishments. They are not required to register with the FDA so the requirements for registered facilities, such as preventive controls, do not apply. However, some provisions in the Act could apply, such as businesses that import food, which require “supplier verification activities to ensure imported food is safe” (FDA, 2016).

The Food Code provides a high level of detail in specifying practices and materials to achieve food safety, for example, food heating regimes even describing surface characteristics of floors to make them safe and easily kept hygienic.

Outer openings

Outer openings to food establishments should have measures to prevent the entry of insects and rodents by:

  • closing holes and gaps along floors, walls, and ceilings;
  • closed, tight-fitting windows; and
  • solid, self-closing, tight-fitting doors.

Perimeter walls and roofs

The Code states that these should effectively protect the premises from the weather and the entry of insects, rodents, and other animals.

Pest control

The food establishment should maintain the premises free of insects, rodents, and other pests by:

  • inspection of deliveries of food and supplies;
  • routine inspection of the premises for pests;
  • if pests are found, use accepted methods of control, including removal of dead or trapped pests in suitable ways;
  • eliminating harbourage;
  • remove dead or trapped pests from control devices at a frequency that prevents their accumulation, decomposition or the attraction of other pests.

Use of pesticides

Poisonous materials must be stored so they cannot contaminate food, materials or equipment. Poisonous materials used for pest control must be suitable for use in a food establishment and used according to:

  • pesticide law;
  • the manufacturer directions;
  • the Food Code;
  • conditions of certification for use of the pest control materials; and
  • any conditions established by a regulatory authority.

The pesticide must be applied in an approved way that prevents hazards to employees or other persons and prevents contamination due to drip, drain, fog, splash or spray on food, materials and equipment.

Some pesticides are legislated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and require a certified person to supervise their use.

There are additional specifications for bait stations, which must be covered and be tamper resistant. Poisonous tracking powder cannot be used in a food establishment, and if non-toxic powder is used then precautions must be taken to prevent contamination.

Person in charge

A ‘person in charge’ ensures that the food establishment complies with Code requirements and maintains food safety. The person should control who is allowed in different areas of the food establishment, and when visits are scheduled ensure assuring that all authorized persons in the establishment, including pest control operators, comply with the Code requirements.

Training for food US food legislation

Businesses need to ensure that all staff, including temporary and part time, are adequately trained in food safety according to their responsibilities. This should include personal safety and health in addition to food safety.

Environmental protection

The term ‘pesticides’ has a very broad definition and in Europe it is managed in two parts. The Plant Protection Products Regulations 2011 cover use of pesticides to control pests in unprocessed foodstuffs about to enter the food chain.

The use of pesticides to protect human health, including those used to prevent contamination of processed food are covered by the Biocidal Product Regulation (Regulation (EU) 528/2012).

In the UK both sets of regulations are managed and implemented by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The HSE also co-ordinate the older National Scheme called the Control Of Pesticides Regulation (COPR) for those products not yet regulated under the EU schemes.

In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for the continual monitoring and assessment of biocide chemicals to determine if they are safe to use. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) analyses pesticide residues in fruit, vegetables, grains, meat and dairy products, while the FDA collects data on residues in processed/ cooked food. This applies both to food products produced in the country and to imports.

The Food Quality Protection Act (1996) requires the EPA to determine tolerances and assess risk from exposure to pesticides from multiple sources — food, water, residential and other non-occupational sources — and also to screen for endocrine disruption.

Health and safety

Business owners are responsible for health and safety of staff in the workplace. Pest control monitoring and surveying can involve accessing places at height and confined places that have a risk of accident or injury, and handling dangerous chemicals. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure employees operate safely and they, the public and the environment are protected from poisons and toxic chemicals used by the business.


Falls from ladders, platforms, stairs and roofs or false ceilings are common causes of injury, according to the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and these usually occurred while cleaning or maintenance was being undertaken. Roof areas are common routes of infestation from various pests, including insects, rodents and birds.

Wildlife protection

Wildlife protection may be legislated under several different pieces of legislation, including prevention of cruelty, safe use of pesticides (including use, storage and disposal), and protection of endangered wildlife eg due to contamination and misuse of pesticides and traps.

The pest animals themselves will be covered by the prevention of cruelty legislation, to ensure animals are killed humanely. For example, in the UK protection of wild animals is covered by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, enforced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and when control methods are used on pests such as rodents or pigeons, the Animal Welfare Act (2006) deals with issues of cruelty and suffering to all vertebrate animals.

In the US the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) restricts pesticides that can be used based on evaluations carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in conjunction with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the USDA.


FDA. Food Code 2013. Food and Drug Agency, 2013. Report number PB2013-110462. ISBN 978-1-935239-02-4. (link)

FDA. Food Safety Legislation Key Facts. 2015 (page updated 10/08/2015, accessed 06/06/2016) (link)

FDA. Frequently Asked Questions on FSMA. 2016 (page updated 26/05/2016, accessed 06/06/2016) (link)

FSA. Safer food, better business for caterers. London, Food Standards Agency. (accessed 06/2016) (link)

FSA. Food hygiene. A guide for businesses. London, Food Standards Agency, 2013. (accessed 05/2016) (link)

Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 of the European Parliament and of The Council of 29 April 2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs. Official Journal of the European Union. (link)

EPA. Food and Pesticides. (accessed 05/2016) (link)

EPA. Summary of the Food Quality Protection Act. (accessed 05/2016) (link)

CIEH. Pest minimisation. Best practice for the hospitality industry. Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, London, April 2009. (accessed 05/2016) (link)

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