The damage done by pests can be extensive, from structural deterioration and contaminated product, causing facilities to lose money, to health issues, spreading illnesses that can make consumers sick. When thinking about the pests that most typically invade food facilities, cockroaches, rodents, flies, and stored product pests are most likely the first few to come to mind. However, pest birds are frequent threats to food facilities, too. And if birds aren’t properly managed, they will waste no time in establishing their flocks and inflicting harm to property, product, and people.
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Explore this issueFebruary/March 2016
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Why is Bird Management Important for Food Facilities?
Because bird droppings can contaminate food, as well as damage structures, certain species of birds are considered serious nuisance pests. Proper actions must be taken to exclude them from entering buildings, as well as prevent them from nesting or gathering outside of facilities, where they pose a contamination hazard. The federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits any conditions that could result in food contamination; therefore, it is necessary to discourage birds from nesting in exterior areas where fecal matter, feathers, or hazardous nesting materials could contaminate product or packing materials on loading docks.
Nests located inside, on roofs, or in the eaves of facilities are a health hazard both for employees and consumers. Bird droppings can enrich the soil below to promote growth of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum, the spores of which can, when inhaled, result in histoplasmosis, a respiratory disease. The inhalation of just a couple of spores can cause mild cases in people, and the threat is most severe from nests or roosts that have been abandoned for a significant period of time. Once droppings have dried out, the right conditions are more likely to develop that can cause spores to be released. Nests are also a draw for a variety of insects and ectoparasites that cannot be tolerated in any facilities handling food products.
Salmonellosis is another common illness spread by pest birds. Salmonella bacteria can be found in pigeons, sparrows, and starlings, all of which commonly invade food production and storage facilities. The illness can be spread to humans when infected bird droppings come in to contact with food, either from above or when the Salmonella organisms are carried on the feet or bodies of birds that land on food products.