GAINESVILLE, Florida -- It's one of the few violations severe enough to trigger a restaurant's automatic closure. We've found plenty of roaches in Bay area kitchens, with some restaurants infested! But besides being gross, are roaches really that dangerous? 10 News traveled to Gainesville and Florida's flagship university where we found more than gators on campus.
At UF's roach lab within the Department of Urban Entomology, you can even smell the roaches from down the hall.
"After a while there is just too much cockroach poop in there," said University of Florida Urban Entomologist Roberto Pereira. He's one of the select few who actually enjoy spending time studying creepy crawly insects.
He confirms controlling roaches in Florida can be a challenge, but says it's one every restaurant owner should take seriously.
"It is not just something that is just because these are insects that people don't like to have. It is that there is a very good chance that it is carrying diseases and transmitting diseases from one place to another.
The two main culprits in Florida restaurants, the tiny German cockroach and the much bigger American cockroach, sometimes known as a Palmetto bug.
"It's coming to the restaurant probably by the drains and sewage system and its bringing whatever its crawling on onto the food.
"Some of these things can actually be life threatening," said Pereira.
That's why state regulators take roach issues so seriously. But what about everyone else?
"You know there's bugs everywhere, We're in Florida," said one customer interviewed by 10 News and clearly more accepting than most about roaches in restaurants.
"A cockroach problem is one that can be prevented," argued Pereira.
Properly storing food, maintaining a cleaning schedule, disposing of garbage and quickly fixing water leaks are all simple things restaurant owners can do to keep their restaurants roach free.
Pereira says something as simple as allowing grease to pool under cooking equipment is an invitation for infestation.
"If it doesn't end up on your fries, it ends up in the cockroach's belly."
And it's not just roaches. You might be surprised to know house flies can be just as dangerous! They often breed outside in open garbage dumpsters and fly in through open doors and drive-thru windows.
That's why the presence of roach activity or even flying insects are both considered high priority violations.
Only a small percentage of restaurants are written up for these type violations, and those are the ones most likely to be shut down by the state.