By JO ANN HUSTIS
OTTAWA, Ill. — Two longtime experts in their fields passed along tips, suggestions and warnings on food safety and bugs, bugs and more bugs at the 20th annual food service public seminar by the La Salle County Heath Department, Sept. 10.
President Tim Baietto of Quick-Kill Pest Eliminators of Streator, Ill., spoke of flies and their ability to contaminate food at public restaurants and homes, regardless of their rural or urban settings.
“Flies are really nasty stuff,” he said of houseflies, gnats, fruit flies and blowflies.
“They lay their eggs in fecal material. When they land on food, they’ve usually just come from manure. Flies can’t eat solid food, so first they throw up on it to liquefy it, then stomp on it with their feet before swallowing it.”
Blowflies settle on meat and dead animals, then transport contaminants from there to wherever they settle next, Baietto explained. Gnats and small flies are a year-around problem.
They are associated with freshly rotting material, and can lay about 500 eggs in a lifetime. Also, the material in which moth flies breed must be physically removed – insecticide spray doesn’t work on them, he said.
“Flies need the same things we need – food, water and shelter,” Baietto noted, adding that getting rid of the pests is sometimes a cleaning issue. Other times, it’s the design of the building that is at issue. These can be overcome, he said, although it may take a while.
“And, clean off your cleaning supplies like your broom, after you clean house,” he said.
Pest prevention tips he offered include eradication of weeds, planting trees and shrubs away from buildings so as to not harbor mice and rats, improved drainage and using sodium vapor outdoor lights instead of mercury lights.
Patricia Welsh, manager of the Division of Environmental Health, Illinois Department of Public Health, passed along safe food produce tips applicable to restaurants and the general public, as well as produce farms.
For food safety and garden produce, test the soil for contaminants, particularly lead, prior to planting. Site vegetable gardens away from manure piles, well caps, garbage cans and septic systems, runoff from potential sources of contamination and areas where wildlife, farm animals or pets roam.
Use compost safely. Compost can harbor pathogens if not properly composted. Do not include animal waste, meat scraps or dairy waste in the compost bin.
Use water from an approved source on the garden. Keep pets out of gardens, as animal waste can be a source of bacteria, parasites and viruses. Don’t feed birds and wild animals near the garden, or eat fresh produce while harvesting it from the garden.
Wash your hands before and after handling fresh produce, rinse all fresh produce under cool running water and scrub firm produce like melons and cucumbers with a clean brush. Soap, detergent or bleach solutions in the wash water are not recommended. Refrigerate leftover cooked, sliced, or cut produce in clean, airtight containers.
Cantaloupe and other melons can be special food safety risks in that they are not acidic and may have contacted pathogens in non-composted fertilizer or by handling, so wash and scrub them well. Cut off all damaged and bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables, and toss any that are rotten.