According to ‘The Chambers Dictionary’, a pest is a troublesome person or thing. Earlier this week a pizzeria owner in Pennsylvania decided this definition included his competitors, which led to him launching a unique pest control initiative.
He sneaked bags of live mice onto the premises of two rival pizza restaurants in what appears to have been a bid to discredit them. According to the report on the BBC website, his mistake was to drop off one consignment in full view of police officers, who made a swift arrest and promptly rounded up his rodent accomplices.
Apparently the perpetrator’s newly opened pizzeria had mouse problems of its own. He was facing the problem common to all catering establishments – food attracts both people and pests.
Restaurants and takeaways wage continual war against Cockroaches, Rats, Mice, Flies and a host of other invaders. Their owners don’t want the ignominy that comes with failing an environmental health inspection.
In a competitive market the news that the chef is sharing a kitchen with four and six-legged visitors is enough to send punters scurrying elsewhere. It can also come with a hefty penalty.
At the end of last year a Chinese restaurant in Southwark was fined nearly £5,000 because its pest control measure had failed. Inspectors spotted a live cockroach and mouse droppings during a routine visit. Incredibly, the remains of two cockroaches were found squashed in the pages of the food safety log.
Keeping pests out of kitchens and store rooms isn’t easy. They’re busy places with lots of comings and goings. All sorts of poison and traps can be laid but unless they’re regularly maintained they soon become ineffective.
It only takes a small number of cockroaches to find their way in, perhaps travelling as unintended passengers with a delivery of stock, to create an infestation.
Perhaps that’s what that Pennsylvanian pizzeria owner was trying to do – introduce a handful of mice into rival premises in the hope they’d breed and overrun the place.
What’s sad is that his own restaurant seemed to have the potential to be a great success. Online reviews say his pizza was ‘outstanding’- better than the competition’s. But his reputation, and perhaps his business, is the victim of an overzealous and misguided approach to Pest Control Services.