askST: How do bakeries keep ants away from their displays?

Reader Ong Hwee Beng wrote in to askST: "How do commercial bakeries keep their premises free of ants? Why do bakeries' shelves (filled with sweet baked goods) not attract any ants?

"Can we apply the same method in our household to keep our food ant-free?"

Food reporter Kenneth Goh checked with the experts for some tips.

To keep ants away from their premises, some bakery chains engage professional pest control companies to carry out regular site inspections. These businesses also stick to a rigorous daily cleaning routine at their outlets.

At bakery chain Four Leaves, for example, the shelves and the acrylic covers are cleaned daily and the trays are wiped before they are topped up with confections each time.

A Four Leaves spokesman says that such regular cleaning practices reduce the chances of ant infestation occurring in display shelves. Staff also check if there are cracks or gaps in structural surfaces like display shelves.

She adds that the quantity of each batch of baked goods is controlled as bakes that are left untouched for a long period of time are more likely to attract pests.

A BreadTalk spokesman adds that its staff clear any food debris surrounding its baked products promptly. They also ensure that the confections are properly covered in display shelves or are kept in their packaging.

To keep ants away from one's home kitchen, Dr Chan Hiang Hao, a medical entomologist from pest control company Rentokil, has the following tips:

1. Store food in air-tight containers or in refrigerators.

2. Clean food spillage or debris such as crumbs immediately after eating. One way to localise the food debris is to eat at the dining table in the kitchen. Look out for food crumbs hidden under kitchen appliances.

3. Fix leaking taps and wipe away spills as water attracts ants. Like animals, ants need water, especially pharaoh ants, which can be commonly found in kettles.

4. Fill tiny cracks and crevices in walls, doors or window frames with silicon to prevent ants from crawling through them in their search for food.