For some reason, birds seem to be pushed to the bottom of the list when it comes to the most dangerous pests in food processing plants. It may be because they seem less harmful than other pests like termites, cockroaches, and rodents. However, this is a common misconception.
According to Carol Lam, Managing Director of Rentokil Malaysia, "bird infestation in food processing or food-related industries, especially at material storage areas or warehouses, is a serious matter, because inadequate control can lead to heavy infestation and possibly serious consequences to consumer health due to contaminated goods. Food industry players also would not want to risk failing their audit or inspection with the presence of birds."
Julie Na, the Senior Technical Manager of Rentokil Malaysia, has over 10 years of experience in pest control, and elaborates further on this subject.
Some of the dangers of bird pest behaviour in urban areas:
These birds carry a wide range of bacteria, including salmonella (which causes food poisoning), and ornithosis (which is transmissible to humans, and causes a flu-like syndrome).
These birds also carry disease. They flock to cities in large numbers, and roost in industrial structures, buildings, nearby trees, and livestock farms and factories. Starlings are drawn to livestock farms and factories because of the high protein supplements that are often added to livestock rations.
Swifts and Swallows
These birds seek to build nests at buildings, and carry anthropod parasites such as bird mites and bird bugs. In addition to noise pollution, their parasites will attack humans in the absence of their hosts, posing a health threat to workers in your plant. When attacked, humans will experience severe itching, large inflamed areas or small welts on their skin.
Living in close association with humans to feed and nest, sparrows are most commonly sighted in granary or rice storage areas foraging on goods. Manufacturers will have to deal with fecal contamination from bird feathers and droppings. The consequences are monetary loss on contaminated goods, as well as increased chances of failing the regular food safety audit.
Since these birds are well-adapted to urban areas, they tend to gather in a large number around people, ready to feed on road kill, garbage, and refuse. They cause noise pollution and leave droppings.
In summary, birds are troublesome for food processing plants because
- their nesting materials can block rain gutters and down pipes, which can result in the overflow of water leading to timber decay, broken rendering, and even structural damages in the long run.
- their uric acid droppings contain pathogenic fungi, some of which can be harmful and even fatal to humans.
- some species carry diseases and parasites that are transimissible to humans, such as the ones mentioned above.
Developing a pest control program
As part of the general management of your food processing plant you must develop and implement an effective pest control program to prevent issues from arising.
Pests include rodents, birds, insects, and other types of animals. They must be prevented from entering any area of the food plant at all times.
To ensure you are compliant you can implement prevention programs, such as trapping, using pesticides, eliminating harborage locations and monitoring pest control devices.
Ensuring that all exterior doors are weather-stripped and maintained on a continuing basis is an important part of this. It would be wise to install automatic closures on exterior doors, and keep exterior doors closed when not in use.
To learn more about this, download our free pest control worksheet. It's attached to our guide to preventing contamination in food manufacturing. Simply click on the link below: