Surge in rodent infestations blamed on new poison rules

Pest-control firms say restricted use of poison is behind rise of rodents in food premises

Chris Izart, director, Owl Pest Control, in Tallaght, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Chris Izart, director, Owl Pest Control, in Tallaght, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

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Rodent activity and infestations have increased substantially in indoor settings including food premises since new regulations curtailed the use of rat poison, pest-control companies have said.

The National Pest Technicians Association (NPTA) in Ireland, who are due to meet Department of Agriculture officials on the subject on Tuesday, have also said rodents are now more difficult to get rid of once they are detected.

A survey of 60 member companies found the amount of detections of rats and mice in kitchens and other indoor areas has risen by 40-60 per cent following new restrictions in rodenticide use. Some put it as high as 90 per cent.

“We are really, really concerned in the industry,” said NPTA spokesman Chris Izart who runs Owl Pest Control Specialists in Dublin. “The entire industry is really struggling.”

Rodenticides, or rat poison, were re-authorised throughout the EU in 2018 but with new rules.

The Department of Agriculture explained they were designed to “prevent primary and secondary poisoning of non-target wildlife and companion animals”.

“Their use continues to be permitted, subject to the mitigation of the risks . . . since there currently are no satisfactory alternative products available to control rodent pests.”

Preventative measure

As with members of the public and professionals such as farmers and game keepers, licensed pest-controllers can no longer use the poison as a preventative measure but only after the presence of rodents has been detected.

However, Mr Izart said, by the time rodents were discovered, it was often too late.

“They are so small and quiet, usually you don’t realise they are there immediately. And by that time there is far more than one,” he said. “There is probably a nest and that is what causes us all the problems. Then we can deploy the poison.”

According to the NPTA survey, even when finally used, poison takes much longer to eradicate the problem – between six and 16 days longer. Vermin are often less inclined to take it, particularly if they have established a preferable food source in food premises or restaurants. Mr Izart said the UK approach, where rat poison could still be used preemptively inside buildings but not in the wild, was preferable.

The recent increase in detections has also been noticed by the Irish Food Safety Company, a 20-year-old nationwide consultancy for restaurants and other businesses.

Managing director Mary Daly said the level of rodent-related enforcement orders had increased in the past year, accounting for at least half of the total.

The regulatory issue “is quite a new development and I think that’s why we are seeing more and more cases of rat infestation around the country”, she said.

Although the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), which manages inspections in food premises, said it had not noticed any trend in detections, it said pest-control problems continued to be cited in many enforcement orders. Last year it noted an increase in the number of related complaints from consumers.

“Complaints regarding poor hygiene standards in food premises cited live mice and evidence of rodent activity throughout food handling and storage areas,” it said.