Cockroaches are harmful as they carry bacteria that not only infect foodstuff but also kitchen utensils and tabletops.
Attracted to damp and dark areas with available food scraps, cockroaches usually come out when the lights are out but if one is spotted in the daylight, it usually means that an infestation has reached its peak.
Selangor Health, Welfare, Women and Family Affairs committee chairman Dr Daroyah Alwi said cockroaches were a health risk but inspections of food courts and restaurants by the local authorities did not reveal the extent of the problem as the insects would hide during the day.
"Our senior health inspectors, who have more experience, are able to find the telltale signs of cockroach infestation by looking for its excreta in closed kitchen cabinets or drawers where the utensils are kept. Even one cockroach is a critical health violation that could make a person sick or develop a skin rash," she said.
Earlier this year, health inspectors in local authorities were told to take extra note of the presence of cockroaches following complaints from consumers.
"Cockroach infestation is caused by poor disposal of food scraps and cutting costs when it comes to pest control services.
"Health inspectors at various local councils have been going around food courts in Selangor and carried out a thorough cleaning of the outlets.
"The stall owners in the food courts were ordered to remove all utensils to facilitate a wash of the kitchen area after fumigation.
"All local authorities are doing this to flush out the cockroaches from crevices and drains," Dr Daroyah said.
She added that cockroaches lived and bred in kitchens as the area was wet.
"We have advised all Health Departments in the 12 local authorities to ensure food outlet owners conduct thorough cleaning on a regular basis coupled with pest control treatment so that the insects do not proliferate again," she said.
Petaling Jaya mayor Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain said on weekends, most small families loved to eat out at food courts or restaurants and the onus was on the Petaling Jaya City Council's (MBPJ) Health and Environment Department to ensure it was a good experience, without cockroaches or poor standard of hygiene.
"Our Health Department has been vigilant and taken strict measures on cleanliness at food outlets.
"We will not compromise on hygiene standards. MBPJ will close food outlets that flout health regulations. Health director Dr Chitra Davi N. Vadivelu ordered 34 food outlets to close in the first six months of 2016 for cleaning and fumigation," he added.
Mohd Azizi urged all stall owners and restaurateurs to carry out routine inspections of incoming provisions that are kept in the store room and inspect the area for signs of pest presence.
Dr Daroyah said the saliva of cockroaches can prompt allergic reactions that trigger skin rashes, irritation to the nostrils and eyes.
"When inhaled, bacteria from cockroaches can trigger an asthma attack as well," she said.
Dr Daroyah advised owners of eateries not to allow dirty dishes to remain overnight and wash the kitchen before closing for the day.