I know, it’s a disgusting, lazy attention-grabbing image, but if you’ve stayed with me this far it must have worked. Sadly, the story is true; it was back in the 1980s the first time that I heard of how a mouse in a bottling plant got stuck inside one of the empties ready to go onto the filling line. Unnoticed, this mouse was immersed in the beverage, was then sealed in when the bottle cap was applied, and then drowned while the bottle was packaged and palletized. While the product moved through distribution to retail, its carcass slowly dissolved and went unnoticed until an unsuspecting customer … well, you can imagine how that story ended.
After recounting this story recently, imagine my surprise to learn this is still happening today! Maybe three years ago, The Verge published a “A brief history of rodents in soda containers” and, in the present age of social media, it will surprise no one to see the video filmed by someone who spotted the mouse in their soda bottle! No surprise, there’s more than one filming of a mouse in a sealed Coca Cola bottle, the horror continues.
Let’s not pretend this is only a problem with fizzy drinks industry, every food manufacturing concern faces the risk of inadvertent contamination of their production from rodents; if not the whole animal itself, then it’s urination on raw commodity, or its fecal pellets falling into a mixer, or its hairs falling off in packaging. No wonder a well-designed and faithfully serviced pest management program and proper IPM inspections are necessary for every facility in the industry. The good news is there are digital rodent monitoring systems that can alert pest managers of a rodent capture inside a facility and rodent activity / pressure outside so they can act quickly. Perhaps the most valuable impact of this technology is that it helps automate trap checking that consumes as much as 75% of the service time. Now, that precious time can be reallocated to deeper, proactive IPM inspections to help head off infestations before they happen and root cause analysis and corrective actions if captures occur.
Haven’t mastered your pest management processes yet? Don’t miss next week’s complimentary webinar, “New Technology’s Impact on Pest Management in the FSMA Regulated World”. Steven Sklare, president of Food Safety Academy, will guide attendees through how technology can help with FSMA compliance, namely as it relates to pest management. He will also discuss how the IoT has made the mouse trap concept smarter, and how you can use this to your advantage in your company’s facility.
The event, which takes place Thursday, March 5 at 12 pm ET, is sponsored by Bayer Digital Pest Management.
Like most insects, cockroaches have multiple nervous centers. When they lose their head, the rest of the body will continue to operate separately. In fact, a roach could live indefinitely without its heads if it didn’t need its mouth to eat and drink.
Register now for the complimentary webinar: New Technology’s Impact on Pest Management in the FSMA Regulated World | March 5, 2020 | 12 pm ETIn case you were curious, the following are five fun roach facts to keep in your back pocket for the holiday parties you’ll be attending this year. However, you may want to wait until after dinner has been served to bring these up in conversation…
Roaches are incredibly fast little creatures, running about three miles per hour, or 50 times the distance of their bodies, in a single second. They are also the fastest in the animal kingdom at turning their body. They can make 25 turns per second!
Cockroaches have been known to survive without important resources for much longer than most organisms. They can survive up to three months without food, a month without water, up to 45 minutes without air and can handle radiation levels up to 15 times higher than a human.
Not only do roaches spread multiple diseases that are dangerous to humans through their feces like Salmonella, shigellosis and hepatitis, they produce allergens that can trigger asthma attacks.
There’s a sci-fi like relationship between the cockroach and the jewel wasp. A jewel wasps sting can paralyze a cockroach long enough to administer a sting in the roach’s brain. This will give the wasp control over the roach’s escape reflex. The wasp then proceeds to drag the roach back to its nest, lay her eggs in the roach’s body and then allows her hatchlings to feed off the roach and build cocoons inside its body. Yikes. If there was ever a time to feel sorry for a roach, this is it.
Ever heard of Louisiana’s cockroach tea? Cockroaches have been used for healing purposes in many areas of the world. They have been utilized for tetanus remedies in Louisiana, burn treatment and gastroenteritis alleviation in China.
The cockroach is currently being studied for potential uses in prosthetics, antibiotics and more.
The cockroach is an amazing creature, but they are less admirable when they inhabit areas where their presence can present risks to health and business.
Whether you work in food manufacturing, distribution or retail, pests are both a fact of life as well as a regulatory disruption. At the same time, pest management solutions aren’t always clear-cut: While there are a variety of effective strategies employed by pest management professionals (PMPs) servicing the food industry, industry challenges—shifting regulatory standards, a lack of proper documentation and more—can complicate the process. For these reasons, short-term rodent problems can become long-term logistical nightmares, leaving food manufacturers in an undesirable situation when a third-party food plant auditor arrives.
Fortunately, emerging technologies in pest management practices are helping facility managers streamline their food and beverage quality assurance processes, reducing the risk of product loss, regulatory action, improper brand management and more. Specifically, electronic remote monitoring (ERM) allows PMPs to detect and monitor rodents in real time, providing you with important information to help reduce risk and increase audit compliance. As such, the value of food safety pest management strategies that incorporate ERM systems is only growing. Seeking out PMPs who use ERM allows you to invest in technologies that protect your margins, ensure the quality of your product and, ultimately, safeguard your most important asset—your reputation.
Modernizing Pest Management With ERM
At first glance, it might seem like pest management practices haven’t drastically changed since they were first implemented in the food manufacturing industry. Many rodent trapping systems remain similar to their original design: Devices designed to trap or kill that must be individually inspected and serviced by professional technicians. Technicians must then relay any risks to facility managers, who have to determine if additional resources are needed to avoid product loss or audit-based infractions.
Upon closer examination, it’s clear that while pests themselves have not significantly changed, both the pest management industry and the modern food supply chain have become increasingly complex. Food facility managers must contend with increasingly stringent food safety standards, and PMPs must rise to meet these needs with evolving pest management strategies.
In many ways, ERM technologies are the structural pest control industry’s response to these challenges, providing technicians with real-time notifications about rodent behavior and allowing them to make risk-based assessments that identify and treat problems before infestations occur. Unlike pest control strategies that rely on periodic service visits from technicians, PMPs who utilize ERM technology can monitor pest activity around the clock, 24/7/365, in virtually any environment. Instead of monitoring individual traps, PMPs can use ERM technology to know exactly when and where pest activity occurs, including in hard-to-monitor areas such as drop ceilings, crawlspaces, shelving undersides and other traditionally overlooked spaces. Technicians then receive valuable analytics from each trap they install, as well as documentation and reporting, that help managers achieve audit and regulatory compliance.
FSMA and ERM
In 2015, the FDA issued the final component of preventative control for human food under FSMA, officially enacting legislation that requires food safety plants to focus on risk-based pest prevention instead of reactive pest control strategies. As a result, quality assurance professionals and facility managers are often tasked with reallocating personnel toward proactive pest control activities in addition to their day-to-day responsibilities.
In many ways, ERM systems go hand-in-hand with FSMA and GFSI regulations. While preparing for a situation that hasn’t yet occurred can be a costly and time-consuming process, ERM has helped PMPs develop custom pest management strategies that assess and control situations in accordance with FSMA and other auditing firm guidelines. In many ways, ERM can provide all parties—PMPs, in-house auditors and third-party regulators—with a track record of pest history that all parties can cross-reference when assessing a facility.
From Risk-Averse to Risk-Based
When it comes to food safety rules and regulations, the only constant is change. In the structural pest control industry, auditors have historically implemented strict guidelines about trap placement that are frequently changing: For instance, traps should be placed every 10, 15, or 20 feet, regardless of facility susceptibility to various pest conditions. Failure to comply with regulations can result in point deductions on audits, even if the conditions that might lead to an infestation are not present. As such, food processing plants often choose to abide by the most stringent audit guidelines imposed upon them by other parties, such as retailers. By utilizing ERM technologies, food safety and quality assurance professionals can use additional pest monitoring analytics to focus on specific compliance issues, rather than spending additional time and money on other strategies.
Additionally, ERM allows PMPs to focus their efforts not only on weekly service visits and station checks, but also on important tasks, including assessing facility vulnerabilities, tracking rodent access points, and providing consultation and additional management strategies to their client—you.
Approaching the Audit with ERM
Food plant managers and retailers alike know that auditor approval is everything. Because ERM is a fast-developing technology, many quality assurance managers and facility owners are curious to know if ERM is audit approved. In truth, there are many kinds of audits, each with different goals, assessment techniques and regulatory standards. When it comes to audits, the gold standard is not necessarily the assessment of the facility and production line itself, but rather how well the assessment matches records kept by the food production plant.
To this end, ERM might be the answer to a streamlined audit process. No matter what kind of audit a plant is currently undergoing, ERM allows PMPs to provide records auditors need to verify that all systems are working properly. ERM can mean the difference between a streamlined process and a laborious audit, acting as a documentation system that helps officials conduct a PMP-verified “second-check.” This kind of verification is invaluable in an industry where there are already more than enough regulatory categories to consider without having to further worry about potential pest infestations.
Thanks to the many advantages they offer, ERM and other remote pest monitoring technologies are growing in popularity. Many facility managers appreciate that ERM allows them to assess pest activity, prevent infestations before they occur, gather data that helps them remain industry-compliant, and acquire and share information with additional parties. If you’re a facility manager, quality assurance professional or other food safety decision-maker interested in the opportunities ERM technologies provide, consider starting the conversation about your pest prevention system with your PMP and how ERM might help improve it.
Trust, But Verify
There is an overwhelming consensus in the pest control industry that technology should be developed to provide end-users with more information. ERM systems are a natural extension of this belief, providing each component of the food production and distribution supply chain—manufacturers, distributors, retailers, quality assurance officials, technicians and others—with more data about how pest control decisions are made. Without data, it can be difficult to ensure technician service visits end in greater transparency about the issues facility owners will face as they prepare for an audit.
Fortunately, ERM can help provide the level of trust and assurance plant managers need to feel confident in their day-to-day operations. ERM is an important step forward for manufacturer-regulator relations, which require a strong combination of data, trust and transparency to ensure that communication systems don’t break down. After all, there are many industries in which miscommunication can lead to catastrophic consequences, and food production is no exception.
While each manufacturing facility, processing plant, distribution center, storage warehouse and retail outlet is different, none are insusceptible to pest infestations, and none can avoid audits required to keep them compliant. Because rigorous oversight is crucial for food producers and consumers alike, working with your PMP to develop pest monitoring strategies that utilize ERM systems and other cutting-edge technologies should be part of your larger pest control consideration process.
In the end, the pest infestation that causes the least damage to your product, profit potential and industry reputation is the infestation that never occurs.
As technologies become more and more advanced, the best pest technicians are often those willing to use the latest and greatest, most advanced tools on the market to provide superior service. However, if your technician is not carrying this one basic item in their toolkit, there is a good chance you’re not getting the quality of service you deserve. Any guesses at what that tool might be?
Register now for the complimentary webinar: New Technology’s Impact on Pest Management in the FSMA Regulated World | March 5, 2020 | 12 pm ETIf you guessed flashlight, you’re correct. Whether or not your technician carries a flashlight with them when they perform the inspection speaks volumes about the quality of service you are getting. A flashlight tells you two important things. First, that your technician is not just checking traps, but performing an investigation. He or she is looking for conditions that attract and foster pests. Second, a flashlight sends the message that your technician is willing to inspect dark or difficult-to-reach places. This is the type of technician willing to get on hands and knees to check under equipment. They will climb and crouch in order to reach the places pests are likely hiding. They value a pest-free environment more than their own convenience.
In short, the most important work your pest technician can provide is a thorough investigation to help prevent pest problems before they occur. If your pest technician is not performing an investigation each time they enter your facility, you’re not getting the value you need and should expect from your service provider.
Given this fact, you may need to look up as well as down. Did you know that a rodent’s teeth is strong enough to gnaw through cinderblock? Or that they are smart enough to memorize floor plans and solve puzzles, enabling them to find multiple entrances into a facility? Did you know that a female mouse starts reproducing at only six weeks of age and can have up to 180 babies a year? That means there are 180 opportunities per mouse in your facility or home to reproduce, contaminate, and damage your products and property.
Rodent trivia can range from fun and interesting to downright shocking. The fact of the matter is that rodents are strong, agile and smart animals. The intelligence of rats is often ranked among some of the smartest in the animal kingdom. Since rodents can carry over 35 different diseases that are harmful to humans, it is a good reminder for those in food safety that these small skilled creatures require vigilance in order to keep them from spreading pathogens across your facility.
Bird droppings and nesting materials, if allowed to accumulate over time, can cause severe damage to building facades, ledges, loading docks, walkways, roofs and more. Building materials such as stone, wood and metal can be damaged due to the acidity of the bird droppings. And in extreme cases, a buildup of bird droppings can impact the structural integrity of a structure. Also, roof drains can become clogged, and fire hazards from packed nesting materials around electrical fixtures can develop. Not to mention all the possible diseases that can result from disturbing bird droppings! Rather than waiting until these bird problems develop and result in potentially expensive remediation, in most cases, it will be cheaper to consider bird prevention design elements beforehand—specifically, in the design-build stage (ideally) or the retrofit stage (alternatively).
Before we can review the building design elements, it is best to review the types of areas that birds prefer to land, roost and nest. This way, when considering a design element, considering the kinds of spaces they prefer to set up camp will make more sense.
Truck bay bumpers
Knee Walls (parapet ledges)
Typical construction around most commercial buildings
Roof structure types
Flat based surface areas
Interior building structures
Under HVAC units
Any water source (natural or otherwise)
Proximity to building
Light Fixtures and Electrical Items
These items provide warmth
These items provide elevated areas to survey area and avoid predators
In the design-build phase of the project, when we work with architects, we always recommend decreasing the number of 90-degree ledges or reducing the ledge depth surface area as much as possible. In those areas that we are not able to reduce or eliminate the ledge, we would recommend a landing-based deterrent product such as a bird spike, bird wire, ledge exclusion system or electrified shock-based bird control product. Each of these types of bird deterrent items has different pros and cons.
Bird spikes are a type of bird deterrent/and anti-roosting device that will make it hard for a bird to land on a leading ledge and close its wings as it walks onto the ledge surface. When a bird’s landing process is made more difficult, combined with a reduction of the surface landing area, the birds will be deterred from the leading ledge area. Most types of bird spikes have thin metal/plastic rods that are attached to a solid base that point in an upward direction. Bird spikes come in various widths depending upon the surface ledge width area. Bird spikes can be mounted to just about any ledge/surface. Bird spikes can be installed on numerous types of building ledge types and sizes. Bird spikes can be an effective deterrent on gutters, signs, rooflines, cameras, pipes, parapet/knee walls, and related building surfaces.
A con of using bird spikes is that bird spikes are primarily designed to deter larger birds like pigeons. Smaller birds such as sparrows or starlings will not be deterred with bird spikes. A smaller bird can move within and around the rods to use the rods to hold nesting materials within the strands of rods to hold their nesting materials within the bird spike to create a nest. Another con is that larger quantities of bird spikes are unappealing to the building aesthetics.
A bird wire system is a combination of stainless-steel posts that are either epoxied or tapped and drilled into the surface area (typically mortar lines/joints). After the stainless-steel post is mounted, a thin monofilament stainless steel wire is secured between the posts with a micro-spring. The wire is tensioned between the two posts. As pigeons or larger birds attempt to land on treated areas, they will not be able to close their wings and thus will be deterred from landing on treated areas.
A con of using bird wire is that it is typically only effective against larger birds.
The goal is to turn a 90-degree angle into a 45-degree angle. When you have a ledge that has a base landing area and a return wall area, this allows birds a great shelter area and an ability to survey surroundings. By creating a 45-degree angle, you take a bird’s ability to land and get a foothold and land on the surface. The product is effective for larger birds such as pigeons and smaller birds, too.
The only real con of the changing the ledge structure is matching the building finish. However, this is the best bird exclusion method that is effective against all bird species.
Shock track is a low-profile shock track system with a minimalist low profile, and virtually invisible solution to deter and prevent birds from landing, roosting or nesting on building ledge-based surfaces. The shock track system will deliver a mild/startling electric shock when the bird contacts the strip. Shock track systems are a great option when building/structural aesthetics are a key factor for the facility.
For larger areas such as loading docks, canopies, and related covered structures, netting is the main bird exclusion method.
A few cons for a shock system are that at times, you may have some arcing with heavy snow or water collection when connection area of the strips make contact, and this system is typically only effective against larger birds.
Bird netting is an exclusion method of bird control. It is intended to be installed on buildings, loading docks, warehouses, airport hangers, transportation facilities, barns, food silos, over building exteriors, balconies, parking garages, rooftops, HVAC units, bridges, agricultural crop applications, ponds, and any other surface that netting hardware can be installed. Bird netting is the best method for excluding all pest bird types. Specifically, seagulls, pigeons, sparrows, starlings, and crows can all be excluded from bird netting.
Bird exclusion netting will prevent birds from gaining entry above any areas that are netted off. It excludes pest birds from roosting and nesting. There are various types of netting and mesh sizes. When selecting the type of netting and mesh size, it is critical to both the target pest bird and where the netting is being installed.
By far, bird netting the best bird exclusion method to control all bird species. The only con of bird netting is that depending upon the application, and the cost can be expensive.
In conclusion, when considering the design-build phase or a retrofit project, the aforesaid areas that are attractive to birds to land, roost and nest should be considered. In most cases, birds can be prevented with a bit of planning.
Remember to also consider surrounding areas (proximity of birds), acceptable pest bird threshold levels, reducing all food and water sources, and closing off all possible entry points. The goal is to not only prevent the birds from setting up shop on the building, but we want to try to keep them an acceptable distance away, too.
Birds of different species can become a pest problem depending upon where they are landing, roosting or nesting. In terms of food facilities, birds can cause various concerns: Product safety risks, possible contamination (bird droppings/feathers), poor audit grades, inspection failure, secondary insect pest problems, vectoring of foodborne illness pathogens, plant closures or fines. It is for these reasons that it is essential that food, beverage and product manufacturers (FBP) establish an integrated bird management (IBM) program.
An IBM program will ensure that every essential team member is on the same page in terms of the protocols for managing pest birds within and around the facility. Even if a facility has taken a proactive approach to bird control, the potential exists for birds to enter a facility. Especially considering bird pressures around adjacent properties, buildings, bodies of water and food sources near the facility.
Read Part I of this series: Bird Problems and Control Methods for Food Production FacilitiesIBM for food industry facilities is a systematic approach to preventing birds from gaining access within a facility and reducing the length of time birds remain within a facility. Nuisance birds, depending upon how severe the bird pressure—i.e., how many birds are landing, roosting and/or nesting within a given area—can cause severe damage to equipment, property, food products, displays, vegetation, façade signage, ledges, roofs, HVAC equipment, drains, fire suppression, electrical equipment and more. The longer that birds are permitted to remain within and around a facility, the more damage they can cause, and the harder it is to remedy the problem. Thus, it is critical to remove any birds that have gained entry as soon as possible to prevent possible FBP contamination and the birds getting comfortable within the facility.
There are several components to developing an IBM program. First, you need to conduct a complete inspection of the interior/exterior of the facility, followed by a review of the current data as well as any historical bird data. Now that you have all the raw data, you can begin developing the site-specific IBM plan for the FBP facility. Now that you have the program designed, the program can be implemented. Finally, after a defined timeframe that the IBM program has been active, the program needs to be evaluated to determine if any adjustments need to be made to the program.
The first step in developing an IBM program is to conduct an initial site inspection audit of the interior and exterior of the facility.
The following various elements need to be inspected and with said findings documented.
On the interior of the facility, look at the following items:
Active Birds with the Facility
List the areas and locations of birds
Example: Location(s): Food prep area(s), warehouse, etc.
Any history of birds and related areas
Type(s) and necessity
Food Processing Areas
Any active control measures in place
Assess the level of risk
Location(s): Doors left open
Additional Access Point(s)
Check all equipment areas that enter/exit building
Location(s): Standing water
Location(s): Food Sources
Bird Droppings or Nesting Materials
Staff feeding birds
All access to food and water
On the exterior of the facility, look at the following items:
Active birds with the facility
List the areas and locations of birds
Example: Locations(s): Rear loading dock
Any history of birds around the exterior of the facility
Accessory buildings and structures
Sanitation Practices (Exterior)
Exposed food sources and spillage
Trash Removal Frequency
Food Waste on Ground
Cleaning Practices Schedule
Cleaning Food Waste Bins
Bay Doors (Exterior)
General Doors (Exterior)
Location(s) Doors Being Left Open
Additional Access Point(s)
Bodies of Water
Location(s): Pipe-Line Penetrations
Location(s): Roof Hatches
Location(s): Canopy (Front/Rear)
Location(s): Awnings (Front/Rear)
Location(s): Façade Signage (Front/Rear/Side)
Bird Droppings or Nesting Materials
Existing Bird Control Devices
Next, after all the above items have been inspected and findings recorded, all the data needs to be reviewed. In addtion, all the current bird management practices within the facility, documentation practices, and current audit/inspection findings should be all evaluated together. All this information is your road map for developing your IBM Program. Make sure that while you are collecting all the said raw data, you also speak with all necessary staff to get the most accurate information possible.
Now that you have conducted your inspections and collected all the data, it’s time to create a site-specific IBM Policy & Plan for the facility. The development and implementation of the IBM plan will provide the appropriate procedures that are to be implemented to prevent, control and exclude birds from entering a facility and from keeping birds an acceptable distance away from the facility. With proper training and implementation of IBM procedures, there will be a reduced likelihood that birds will be able to enter the facility, and the length of time birds remain inside the facility will be reduced—thus, reducing the level of pest bird damage caused, reducing hazards to food sources, equipment, the public, and the facility environment.
Each facility is unique in its operation, location and potential for bird activity. The facility’s IBM plan will be designed to factor its control options when remedying and preventing bird pressure.
Now that you have an IBM Plan, it’s time to implement the plan. First, make any necessary changes based upon findings of the audit and review of all data. Next, correct any conducive conditions that were discovered during the inspection. All the items that may require adjustment may need to be planned out depending upon budgetary constraints. Define staff roles regarding bird control efforts on a front-line facility level. Each member of the action team must fully understand their role and responsibility about the implementation and day-to-day operation of the plan.
The IBM Plan is the roadmap that should be followed for managing pest birds throughout the interior and exterior of the facility and related structures. It will set forth the facility’s bird threshold levels and site-specific facility needs. Furthermore, the IBM Plan will provide in detail how each phase of the plan will be implemented at each facility. The facility coordinator, in collaboration with the IBM coordinator, shall be responsible for the administration and implementation of the IBM plan. Each of their roles and responsibly should be thoroughly reviewed and understood.
Next, conduct staff training on proper bird control removal methods if handing live removal internally. Otherwise, what are the approved processes for third-party vendors who are providing removal services? Finally, conduct a review of the new documentation process to record all necessary data for the IBM program. Data collection is a critical component in evaluating the success of the plan and determining if any adjustments need to be made.
To ensure goal compliance, the IBM program should be evaluated at each site annually. The review must consist of all records, the number of birds that gained access into the store, corrective actions taken (at the facility level and outside efforts), and any plan adjustments. By reviewing all the data collected, the plan’s effectiveness can be determined, and whether alterations need to be made. Note that the IBM plan is not a static document that sits in a binder. The plan will have to evolve as operations change, or the set goals of the program are not met.
A proactive approach to reducing bird populations is critical for food industry facilities. As such, the IBM program will ensure that your entire staff is adequately trained on all the site-specific bird control methods, reduce the frequency of birds entering the facility and create a documented bird control program that is designed for your specific facility.
Rodents are vectors of more than 50 pathogens, including plague.1 While plague may be considered a problem of the past, according to the World Health Organization, between 2010 and 2015, there were 3,248 cases of reported plague worldwide and 584 deaths. While it is clearly not the 1300’s when the plague killed millions, the CDC confirms, “plague occurs in rural and semi-rural areas of the western United States, primarily in semi-arid upland forests and grasslands where many types of rodent species can be involved.” While the fact that plague is still lurking is a bit surprising, it should be no surprise that rodents can spread more than 50 diseases. Not the least of these diseases is Salmonella braenderup, the cause of recall of approximately 206,749,248 eggs in 2018. The good news: In the age of IoT, new technology can enable an immediate response to help prevent infestations from growing out of control.
With rodent populations on the rise due to climate change and the resultant public health issues in major cities across the United States, public health officials and pest managers face unimaginable challenges in staying ahead of rapidly growing and spreading rodent infestations. Earlier this year, Los Angeles had a typhus outbreak that resulted from a rat infestation near an encampment for those experiencing homelessness. The unsanitary conditions created a harborage for rats that spread the flea-borne illness. Cases of typhoid have doubled in the area since 2012. When and where will the next pathogen outbreak from rodent activity hit?
If that’s not frightening enough, it is important to highlight that once an infected, flea-carrying rodent enters a facility, eliminating the rodent does not always necessarily mean eliminating the presence of plague pathogens. The World Health Organization explains that once vectors have been introduced through rodents and their fleas, it is not enough to eliminate rodents. Vector control must take place before rodent control because “killing rodents before vectors will cause the fleas to jump to new hosts.”
Controlling the spread of pathogens via rodents is becoming increasingly important, particularly in sensitive environments like food processing and manufacturing facilities. Effective management begins with early and accurate detection and sustained through continuous monitoring. However, the traditional method of manual rodent inspection by its very nature cannot provide facility and pest managers with either early detection or continuous monitoring.
Thanks to IoT, monitoring systems can now be used in a wide variety of rodent monitoring devices inside and outside a facility. The systems transmit messages in real time over wireless networks and provide pest managers, facility management and public health officials with 24/7 visibility of rodent activity in a monitored location, which will enable more timely responses and help improve the effectiveness of mitigation efforts. Digital IoT technologies are rapidly becoming the modern proactive tool used to help predict and control rodent issues before they occur in an age when traditional, reactive methods are insufficient.
Various types of pest birds can impact food plant structures and facility surroundings. Even a single bird that finds its way into a food plant can trigger a host of concerns such as, failed audits, product contamination, plant closure, production stoppage, lost revenues, fines, structural damage, health hazards to occupants and fire hazards.
In most cases, a food plant operation has a bulletproof pest control plan; however, in most cases, birds are always an afterthought in most pest management plans. After inspecting and consulting numerous food plants, I hear the same story over and over: “I have a person in the warehouse that can chase them out” or, “are birds really a big deal?” or, “why do I have to be concerned about birds?” and on and on. Despite what you may think, birds are a big deal, and you should take them seriously!
Since food processing plants contain areas that have very sensitive environments, birds can introduce various adulterants and harmful contaminants. Birds can cause potential harm to humans due to foodborne illness.
Pest Bird Species
There are four main pest birds: Pigeon, Starling, Sparrow and Seagull. Each one of these birds can cause a host of concerns and issues for food processing facilities. Just one bird can cause catastrophic damage. In most cases, small pest birds such as Sparrows and Starlings can gain access into a facility through a variety of ways:
Damaged bumpers around truck bay loading dock doors.
Open doors (seems obvious, but I always find doors wide open during audits).
General building deficiencies.
Larger birds, such as Pigeons and Seagulls, typically cause more problems around the exterior of a facility on ledges, rooftops, HVAC units, loading docks and related areas.
In either case, these various types of pest birds can cause significant problems on the interior and exterior of food plants.
In most cases, facilities want to reduce as many conducive conditions as they can around and within the facility in a timely fashion. A conducive condition is one whereby due to a building condition, structural design, equipment operation, food or water source, or surrounding conditions (i.e., near a public landfill, raw materials mill or body of water) can attract pest birds to a facility. With each of these conditions, great care must be taken to reduce as many conducive conditions as possible.
Examples of Conducive Conditions
Loading docks/canopies with open beams and rafters
Pooling water (roof and landscaping)
Structural overhangs and ledges
Open access points
Landscaping (types of plantings)
Damaged truck bay bumpers
Gaps and opening around the structure
Doors with improper sealing
Employees feeding birds
Doors left open
All these conducive conditions, if left unresolved, can lead to significant bird problems. Reducing as many conducive conditions as possible will be the first step of any bird management program.
Bird Control Methods
From the start, your facility should have a bird management plan of action. For the most part, bird problems should not be left to be handled internally, unless your staff has been properly trained and has a bird management plan in place.
Most birds are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. However, Pigeons, Sparrows, and Starlings are considered non-migratory birds and are not protected under this Act. Even though these three bird species are not protected, control methods still need to be humane. More specifically, your bird control program must also comply with is the American Veterinary Medical Association (“AVMA”) Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals if this is the control method selected. The AVMA considers the House Sparrows, Feral Pigeon, and the Common Starling “Free-Ranging Wildlife.” And Free-Ranging Wildlife may only be humanely euthanized by specifically proscribed methodology.
In addition to the above-mentioned regulations, various regulations regarding the relocation of birds/nests may also apply. I also always recommend checking with local and state agencies to ensure that there are no local regulations that may apply. Bottom line: Don’t rely on untrained internal practices; one misstep could result in heavy financial fines and penalties.
Bird Management Strategies
First Line Defense
Stop any bird feeding around the facility immediately
Any bird management plan should have a clear policy prohibiting employees from feeding birds. Once birds have been accustomed to routine feeding, the birds will continue to return.
Eliminate Standing Water Sources
All standing or pooled water needs to be eliminated. Thus, routine roof inspections need to be conducted to ensure drains are working properly.
Landscape irrigation needs to be calibrated to ensure no puddling of water in areas of low sun exposure.
Proper Sanitation Practices
Ensure that dumpster lids are closed when not in use.
Trash removal frequency adequate.
Routine cleaning of trash receptacles.
Immediate removal of spilled food.
Eliminate Entry Points
Survey the facility to ensure that all holes are properly sealed.
• Around truck bay bumpers and doors
Exhaust vents are properly screened.
Windows are closed and have screens when in use.
The most appropriate bird control strategy will be determined based on the severity of the bird pressure. For example, if the bird pressure is high (birds have nested), then in most cases, you will only be able to use bird exclusion methods. Whereas, if the bird pressure is light to moderate (birds have not nested), bird deterrent methods can be used. This is an important distinction. Bird exclusion is physically changing the area to permanently exclude said pest birds. Whereas, bird deterrent devices inhibit birds from landing on treated areas.
Bird Deterrent Methods
After the previously mentioned first-line strategies have been implemented, the next step would be to install bird deterrent products (birds have not nested).
Electrified Shock Track
Sonic & Ultra Sonic Devices
Lasers and Optical Deterrents
Hazing & Misting Devices
Bird Exclusion Methods
If the birds have nested in or around the facility, the next step would be to install bird exclusion products (birds have nested).
Ledge Exclusion (AviAngle)
Architectural modifying structural
Aggressive Harvesting (Targeting)
The best prevention strategy is planning and knowledge. Conduct a bird audit and develop a bird management plan before birds get near or inside the facility. The key is to act quickly, as soon as an incident occurs. I find countless times when I am called in to consult or service a food plant, that the birds got into the facility and no one knew what to do, and as a result, the birds remained within the facility for an extended period, thus increasing the risk of exposure. It is always much easier to remove a bird when they are unfamiliar with their surroundings. Whereas, it is much more difficult to remove birds from a facility that has had a long-standing bird problem.
Once you have a plan, who oversees the bird management plan? Are thresholds determined and set for various areas of the facility? For example, a zero threshold in production areas? Threshold levels will be set based upon by location and sensitivity of the said location. What steps are going to be taken to remove the bird? For how long is each step conducted? These questions need to be answered and developed to stay ahead of bird problems.
Reduce as many conducive conditions as possible. The longer a conducive condition stays active, the more likely birds, as well as other wildlife or rodents, will be attracted to the site and find a way into the facility.
Pathogen Contamination & Hazards
Birds present a host of problems, whether they are inside or outside of a facility. Birds can roost by air vents, and the accumulation of bird feces can enter the facility air system. Bird droppings on walkways and related areas allow for the possibility of vectoring of said dropping when employees step on droppings. Thus, spreading fecal matter/spores and other contaminants to areas throughout the facility.
If birds are within the facility, droppings can spread on product lines, raw materials, stored products, equipment and more, thus, causing contamination. Because of a bird’s ability to fly, they are perfect creatures to spread various diseases, pathogens, ectoparasites and fungal materials. Diseases such as Histoplasmosis, Salmonella, Encephalitis, E-coli, Listeria, and more. Birds have been known to transmit more than 60 infectious diseases!
Besides the spread of potentially harmful contaminants throughout the facility, bird droppings and nesting materials can also create a host of additional problems:
The acidity in bird droppings can damage building finishes, façade signs, lighting and more.
Wet bird droppings can create a slip and fall hazard.
Bird nesting materials can create a fire hazard around façade signs, exit signs and light fixtures.
Bird nesting and debris can clog roof drains and cause roof leaks from standing water.
Introduction of ectoparasites into the facility such as bird mites, lice, fleas, ticks and more.
In summary, taking a proactive approach to bird control is the best practice. Reduce food, water and shelter sources (aka conducive conditions) promptly. Pest management programs need to implement a more in-depth section of the program for bird control. Like integrated pest management, bird control should be based upon an integrated method. Each facility will have its unique challenges. As such, each bird management plan needs to be tailored to the specific site. A well designed and balanced, integrated bird management program will provide long-term and cost-efficient bird control.
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