It’s never a good thing when a bird or various pests gets into your place of business, and it’s especially true for food manufacturers, processors, and retailers.


Manufacturers and processors

“Food manufacturing and processing facilities should be inspected daily for rodent activity. The rate at which rodents contaminate food and surfaces with their nibbling and excrement is astounding, as is the rate at which they multiply,” recommends Drew McFadden, director of research and marketing, Xcluder Rodent and Pest Defense, Buffalo Grove, IL.

Daily inspection is critical to protecting your business, and employees should be trained to notice signs of pest activity and commended for reporting it, he says.

“All food manufacturers and processors should have a comprehensive Integrated Pest Management program focusing on sanitation and exclusion—creating physical barriers to keep pests from gaining entry in the first place,” McFadden notes.

“Trash should be disposed of in clean, tightly-sealed containers and kept far away from the building. Standing water should be avoided in sinks and gutters. Equipment, food surfaces and floors should be cleaned and sanitized regularly, and food products should be stored away from the walls to facilitate easy inspection. Clutter should be avoided as cluttered storage areas create ideal nesting grounds.”

In addition to sanitation, exclusion is paramount to protecting a facility against rodents, he advises.

“The first step in proper exclusion is identifying how and where rodents might get in. The tiny gap beneath an unprotected door, for example, is an easy and popular target for rodents, many of whom can enter a building through an opening as small as 1/4 inch. Rodent-proof door sweeps are therefore indispensable.”

Loading dock doors, window cracks, drain pipes and vents are just a few more of the common entry points that must be protected, he says.

“It’s important to note that caulk, mortar, spray foam and standard rubber or brush door sweeps offer little to no protection against the gnawing power of rodents. Xcluder offers a full line of rodent proofing tools including Xcluder Fill Fabric for cracks and crevices (the only exclusion product on the market tested and proven effective by the USDA APHIS lab), Rodent-Proof Door Sweeps, and a full suite of products to protect the many access points surrounding a loading dock.”

Floor joints create vulnerability to rodents as well, McFadden notes.

“Over time, a number of factors including shrinkage while curing, foundation settling and seasonal temperature cycles can cause the gaps at joints in concrete to expand. These bigger gaps are often exploited by rodents and other pests for burrowing into and throughout a building. Proactively sealing open joints with the Xcluder Joint Sealing Kit is an easy and effective way to seal joints that may otherwise be susceptible to rodent and pest intrusion.”

When choosing a pest management company, ensure they are committed to following the principles of IPM with a focus on sanitation and exclusion, he advises.

Desiree Straubinger, market technical director, Rentokil, Reading, PA, says that facilities that process or store crops are at risk for infestation of pests, especially stored product insects. Denying access to these pests should be the first line of defense, she adds.

According to Straubinger, some best practices include:

  • Ensure that high standards of hygiene, housekeeping sanitation needs are maintained at all times throughout the year. Clean up excess food material such as sillages on machinery, equipment, storage and transport vehicles
  • Install tight fitting insect screens or screen doors, and keep doors and windows shut as much as possible.
  • Consistent general maintenance. Inspect the building on a regular basis to ensure there are no holes or cracks that pests can get inside.
  • Keep raw materials in a secure area.
  • Remove access to bird nesting sites. Ledges, window sills, eaves and holes in roofing are great locations to build nests. Deter birds from setting up shop by repairing any damages, add barriers to window ledges and other deterrents to ledges and eaves.
  • Use a pest management company that uses Integrated Pest Management strategies to keep your property free of pests. IMP tactics include setting pest thresholds, monitoring and working together to prevent infestations.


Retailers and foodservice operations

“To consumers, the presence of pests implies unsanitary conditions, which can damage the reputation of a retailer or foodservice brand. Pest can damage products and supplies, be the cause for health department closures, and put the public’s health at risk by spreading bacteria in kitchens and public areas,” says Straubinger.

Straubinger recommends the following tips for retailers and foodservice:

  • Ensure that high standards of hygiene, housekeeping sanitation needs are maintained at all times.
  • Consistent general maintenance. Inspect the building on a regular basis to ensure there are no holes or cracks that pests can get inside.
  • Keep areas uncluttered, as pests can hide and live in these areas.
  • If possible, keep the vegetation around the building cut and tidy.
  • Immediately clean up spills.
  • Maintain consistent Pest Management services.

McFadden recommends safeguarding all exterior doors, as commercial doors are continuously vulnerable to the gnawing of rats.

“Sheet iron flashing should be installed surrounding the door, and any clearance below the door must be smaller than 3/8 inch. All doors should remain closed when not in use and be fitted with proven, specialized rodent-proof door sweeps.”

Ventilator grills and windows should be protected with proper and proven exclusion material, ensuring any voids or cracks are thoroughly filled, he advises.

Defective drain pipes provide a transportation pipeline for rodents; therefore, a perforated metal cover should be cemented over the drain pipe, and any small openings surrounding the drain where it enters the building should be patched or filled with proven exclusion material, McFadden says.

“Large sidewalk cracks should be sealed, as these crevices allow rodents to access a restaurant's foundation and search for entry points. Foundation walls can be protected with barriers of metal, concrete, or brick around and below the foundation. In addition to squeezing through minuscule openings, rats and mice can climb wires and rough surfaces with relative ease. Circular rat guards should be placed around all vertical wires and pipes.”

He also recommends ensuring that cracked or broken roofing tiles are replaced as needed, and utilize proven exclusion material to fill any voids.

“Remember that windows break, pipes rust and concrete deteriorates, creating new rodent access points at any time. Successful exclusion requires ongoing vigilance and upkeep. Facilities should be inspected daily for rodent activity and employees should be trained to notice and report signs of pests.”

For those facilities with loading docks, ensure the dock door and leveler are sealed with rodent-proof seals, he says. The moving parts, heavy foot traffic and equipment wear and tear of loading docks make them notorious for rodent activity.


Bird management

Large buildings with areas for birds to roost and find food make processing facilities attractive environments for a bird infestation, says Straubinger.

“Birds can carry and transmit more than 60 diseases. The presence of birds in a processing plant is a serious health and safety concern as they can compromise air quality, damage equipment and structures, contaminate products and create a mess.”

Straubinger offers the following recommendations for bird control:

  • Keeping pests out is the number one priority. Prevent pests from gaining access by inspecting the building to make sure there are no holes, cracks or entryways for pests.
  • Maintain regular pest control services.
  • Develop an internal audit system to inspect buildings on a daily basis. Pest management professionals are not there every day, and it is important to have a system in place to have constant monitoring of the facility.
  • Create an internal communication system to communicate any pest sightings and communicate the information to the pest management professional.
  • Processing and manufacturing facilities are hard to treat once an infestation gets out of control based on food safety regulations. It is vital to have regular pest management inspections.
  • Remove access to bird nesting sites. Ledges, windowsills, eaves and holes in roofing are great locations to build nests. Deter birds from setting up shop by repairing any damages, and add barriers to window ledges and other deterrents to ledges and eaves.

Nesting, feeding, loafing and overnight roosting are a few of the many reasons birds can be attracted to manufacturing and processing buildings, says Dan Collins, BCE, regional technical director, McCloud Services, South Elgin, IL.

“Understanding how to prevent birds’ opportunities from taking advantage of these sites is critical. One of the most important strategies to deter birds is proper refuse management, specifically dumpster design. Dumpster design is critical in preventing spills from occurring, especially self-contained dumpsters, which are designed to contain spills and are easier to clean than stationary compactors,” he advises.

Landscape management is another important consideration for food processing plants, Collins says.

“Flowering and fruiting trees should be actively avoided to prevent conditions conducive to feeding birds. Additionally, dense shrubs, such as arborvitae, should not be used to deter bird nesting Processors’ loading docks are especially prone to bird activity and should be designed with activity minimization in mind," he notes.

“Eaves, overhangs, and ledges are all typically susceptible to bird nesting. For example, open trusses are frequently used by feral pigeons and house sparrows for nest sites. Another particularly bird vulnerable zone is loading dock doors, especially docks with cushioned bumper ledges,” Collins expands.

European starlings frequently build nests inside compromised bumpers, flat ledges above loading docks, and compromised rooftop drip edges, he states. 

“Oftentimes, European starlings sit on top of bumpers and fly into the facility when trucks back into the bumper pad! An effective design for deterring birds includes sheet metal encapsulated docks with tight seams.”

Processors with rooftop equipment such as dust collectors, air-handling units and exhaust stacks are more vulnerable to bird activity, too, he notes.

“Dust collectors oftentimes blow product onto rooftops which provides birds, such as European starlings, easy access to food. Frequently, rooftops can hold water, therefore should be routinely inspected to ensure water is not easily accessible to birds. Rooftop solar panels should also be designed to prevent hospitable conditions for birds’ nests. If a plant is near a large body of water, it is important to consider that a flat roof may be susceptible to gull nesting. Gulls can be deterred by installing bird wire systems across the rooftops to keep them from landing.”

Building signage should be designed without ledges or edges to allow birds, such as house sparrows, to nest, Collins says. 

“Large signs with flat surfaces or openings on letters are especially susceptible to nesting. Signs should be modified by using plexiglass or bird shock trip to deter birds from roosting and nesting on signage. Processors with large utility arbors are especially challenging for bird management professionals."

“During construction, facilities with large arbor systems should consider enclosing them, as they are extremely difficult to bird proof with conventional methods. Cable and turnbuckle netting systems have proven to be the most effective when dealing with utility arbors, but the costs associated with these bird exclusion systems can be expensive.”

Retention ponds, especially those with islands, and water features should be avoided, if possible, Collins recommends. 

“Birds, particularly Canada geese, are highly attracted to water sources and are becoming classified as pests throughout the United States. Canada geese are among the most persistent bird pests at facilities and require permitting when managed. Typically, bird management professionals will have to file permits with state wildlife regulators prior to managing.”

However, make sure to keep in mind the following regulatory considerations, says Collins:

  • Feral pigeons, house sparrows and European starlings are the only three bird species not protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Regardless, these birds may still be subject to protection by state or local laws.
  • Bird management professionals and food processors must be aware of any laws affecting each site. 
  • Gulls, blackbirds, Canada geese and swallows are all protected by the MBTA and permits are needed before managing them. It’s important to be aware of these laws before conducting any bird management project.

Related - Slideshow: Effective control of birds and pests across the food chain