Food Processing and Birds: Not Feathers That Flock Together

One of the most common ways unprocessed food materials and product packaging is exposed to harmful food-borne bacteria is as a result of contact with bird droppings. The heightened awareness of the threat nuisance birds present is keeping Sprague busy consulting with food processing and other commercial clients on how to safeguard their facilities. 

Clients and third-party audit inspectors are dialed into the bird management issue because of mandates for preventive controls for food safety as a result of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

“Anything that touches food must be protected from birds,” says Keith Rowney, Sprague’s special services manager and resident bird management guru. “It extends up and down the chain from growers and product packaging manufacturers to logistics providers and retail grocery stores. The bottom line is that they must have uncontaminated products and packaging materials.”

Another point making clients take a longer look at their bird management protocols is the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s ability to take more aggressive regulatory action against facilities found to have threats to food safety.

“The FDA has more teeth behind their actions now and there is very little tolerance for having bird infestations that present serious health risks such as listeria or salmonella in or around a food plant,” says Rowney.

For commercial facilities spring is the time to take action against nuisance birds. The Pacific Northwest’s warm and wet winter is encouraging migratory birds to return from their winter hiatus sooner and now is the time to prevent them from establishing nesting sites in and around facilities.

The timing, especially with swallows and woodpeckers, is vital because both species are protected by federal law and cannot be disturbed once they establish a nesting site and lay eggs.

“From migratory species to everyday nuisance species including sparrows, starlings and pigeons, spring is definitely the time to take action,” says Rowney.

The veteran pest management professional has seen more Canada geese flocks establish a year-round presence on the grass and even roofs of industrial and office parks, food processing plants and schools.

“The geese are taking advantage of gated properties where the threat from predators like coyotes is mitigated,” says Rowney. “The waste geese leave behind is not only unsightly but presents a significant threat from disease. If a food processing facility employee brings droppings inside the building on their shoe or a lift truck brings it on its tires, it could have serious consequences.”

Rowney encourages commercial property owners, managers, building engineers and quality assurance managers to inspect their facility – inside and out – for signs of bird nesting activity.

If you do notice increased bird activity, contact your technician immediately. They can walk you through the process and assess the situation, survey and document their findings, and create a timeline and action plan that meet your operational and budget requirements, and keep you compliant.

“It is better to get ahead of a bird issue now rather than wait a few months,” says Rowney. “In the end it can be less costly and less of hassle to your business.”

Food Processing & Manufacturing, Birds