Food Safety, Preparation and Storage Tips
Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, the University of Arizona
Proper Storage to Avoid Kitchen Pests
Get rid of household insects and pests by always keeping your home clean not giving them a chance to come into your home. It is easier to keep them out than trying to get rid of them after they move in. Many different insects can be classified as "pantry pests" - weevils or beetles that live on food stored in the home. These insects infest products such as dried fruit, nutmeats and spices, and grains such as flour, macaroni and breakfast cereals. The immature insects are recognized as worms and adults are beetles or moths.
Ever wonder where they come from? Well, food may have been contaminated with insect eggs and sealed in the package. When the eggs hatch, the "worms" or insects are seen in the food container, when poured into the palm of your hand, or more easily seen on a white paper or cloth background. If this package is left in the cupboard for a long time, eggs hatch, and insects escape and infest other foods. Eventually, the entire cupboard can become infested.
Uninvited pests love spilled food, dirty surfaces and garbage cans, cracks in the cupboards, walls and floor and seldom-used storage places, as well as behind sinks and water pipes.
The first step to control pantry pests is to locate the source of the infestation. If all insects are confined to one package, simply destroy the package eliminates the problem. If you suspect insects have invaded other packages of food, place these packages in a freezer for 4-5 days. This will kill most of them, since most kitchen pests are tropical insects by origin and are vulnerable to freezing. When insects are discovered in several packages or containers or throughout the entire cupboard, more drastic action is necessary. An alternative is to place them in a low temperature oven.
First, remove all food containers. If practical, store them in their original packages in a refrigerator or freezer. All spilled foods, such as crumbs and sugar granules, should be cleaned up thoroughly. Pay special attention to all corners, cracks and crevices where eggs or larvae may be hiding. If possible thoroughly vacuum these areas. Scrub with hot water and soap or detergent. Sanitize all areas with a household chlorine bleach solution of 1 tablespoon liquid bleach per gallon of water. Spray the cupboard with a pesticide containing diazonon or chlorpyrifos. Keep all food containers clean inside and outside. Clean out all storage containers before filling them with fresh food and make sure the lids fit tightly. Keep the cupboard shelves clean and dry, and check packages and containers frequently.
Prevention is best. Keep flour, grain products, and spices in glass or metal, rigid containers so insects cannot move from one food to another. New packages of grain products can be placed in the freezer for 4-5 days when you bring them home to kill any existing insect eggs.
Material written by Mary Abgrall and Scottie Misner, April 1998.