Flies Twice as Filthy as Cockroaches but Most Restaurant Patrons Either Don’t Care or Don’t Know

Scientific research shows that flies carry more disease-causing pathogens than cockroaches, but a new survey shows that restaurant patrons are more likely to eat food touched by flies.

Restaurant patrons underestimate the health threats flies present, according to a new survey released by Orkin. Of the survey respondents:

  • 61 percent would continue eating their meal after a fly touched and contaminated it.
  • Only 3 percent of survey respondents reported they would continue eating food on which a cockroach crawled.

“Many restaurant patrons may not be aware that house flies are twice as filthy as cockroaches,” says Orkin entomologist and Technical Services Director Ron Harrison, Ph.D. “It’s important that everyone understands the magnitude of the health threats flies pose so that they can help prevent the transmission of dangerous diseases and bacteria.”

Restaurant patrons are at risk of being exposed to serious disease transmission if flies enter food preparation or dining room areas. Flies are known to spread disease-causing pathogens when they move quickly from potentially disease-laden garbage to exposed human foods and utensils. Every time a fly lands, it can leave behind thousands of germs that can cause serious illnesses such as diarrhea, food poisoning, meningitis and bloodstream infections.

Despite these health threats, restaurant patrons continue to eat food contaminated by flies. A separate survey released by Orkin shows flies are a common pest in restaurants:

  • 50 percent saw a pest at a restaurant in the past 12 months.
  • 95 percent of those sightings included flies.
  • 75 percent of those sightings went unreported because restaurant patrons don’t consider flies a major issue.

Restaurant patrons who responded to the survey have a low tolerance for pest sightings, as more than half expect a discount on their meal if they spot a pest in the restaurant. While 81 percent will never return if they see a pest in their food, 56 percent are likely to write a negative online review of the restaurant, post on social media or blog about it.

See results of our restaurant industry insights.

Flies are not only a problem at restaurants, but also in homes. In many areas around the country, house flies are the top fly problem. Sanitation is key for homeowners to protect against health concerns related to flies.

More than 100 pathogens are associated with the house fly, including Salmonella, Staphylococcus, E.coli and Shigella. These pathogens can even cause diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera, bacillary dysentery and hepatitis.

To keep flies away, consider the following tips:

  • Regularly wipe countertops.
  • Clean food and drink spills immediately.
  • Store all food in containers.
  • Empty trash cans and keep lids tightly shut.
  • Install door and window screens.