Fall is an important time for bird management in commercial facilities since most species of protected migratory birds head south for warmer climates and abandon their nesting sites. This fall, bird management work in and around commercial facilities, especially food processing and packaging facilities, has taken on added importance with new Food Safety Modernization Act mandates now in place.
More restrictive enforcement of audit standards by third-party and government auditors has commercial facility and QA managers paying much closer attention to their bird management protocols.
“In the past bird control was often overlooked by auditors but the new mandates place more emphasis on the safe stewarding of food and packaging materials from farm to table and making sure birds do not pose a threat to your facility and its contents,” says Keith Rowney, Sprague Pest Solutions’ special services manager and certified bird control specialist.
Rowney says food processing and packaging facilities must be pro-active in their efforts to prevent nuisance birds from threatening the facility and its products.
“The threat of contamination from bird droppings has always been there but under new mandates an auditor does not have to document an actual bird problem but can cite conducive conditions – unsecured doorways or the presence of birds in a nearby grove of trees – that could cause a problem,” he adds.
What steps can QA and facility managers take to keep their facilities compliant when it comes to birds?
• Look beyond the four walls of your facility for bird issues. Exposed stacks of shipping pallets outside a structure with droppings on them could cause you to fail an audit.
• Any bird sightings on fixtures or equipment – inside or outside – could be a cause for concern with auditors as can the presence of fecal matter, feathers or nesting materials.
• Have the Sprague Pest Experts conduct a bird management needs assessment for your facility, develop an action plan to correct any issues and reevaluate the work that is done for effectiveness.
Birds are unique problem in commercial facilities because they can easily navigate between facilities that are miles apart and deliver pathogens (in their droppings) that contain harmful bacteria including listeria, E. coli and salmonella that can be brought inside a facility on the sole of an employee’s shoe or land on food ingredients or preparation areas if the birds gain access inside.
Rowney says the consequences for employees of food processing facilities that are found at fault for allowing food borne disease to taint products and threaten food safety have never been higher.
In recent years company executives who have knowingly allowed tainted product to ship have faced criminal prosecution – including lengthy prison sentences.
A prime example was the executive from the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America who was convicted and sentenced to 28 years in federal prison after salmonella tainted peanut butter was distributed. The outbreak resulted in the deaths of nine people and more than a 1,000 people becoming ill.
What was the cause of the salmonella? During the investigation federal inspectors found cockroaches, rats, mold, dirt, accumulated grease and bird droppings present during their raid on the plant.