The majority of people eating in a restaurant would go back to eating their meal after a fly touched and contaminated it, but almost no one would touch their food after seeing a cockroach crawling on it. The same kind of attitude is seen in staff and managers in the food-processing industry (“It’s just a fly, wave it away”), and it can cost them their business.
When the authorities shut down a local restaurant or a food processing unit, it’s usually because of rodents or cockroaches – seldom is the “innocuous” fly the reason a restaurant goes out of business. And yet, according to entomologists, filth-breeding flies (a term referring to several species of true flies of the order Diptera, including the four subspecies of Musca domestica, the house fly) are at least twice as filthy as cockroaches.
Due to their abundance (uncontrolled, they would cover the whole planet 18 inches deep in just one season), their close association with people, and their ability to transmit disease, filth flies are considered a bigger threat to human welfare than most other household or commercial pests.
In recent years, food and beverage processing industries have become subject to intense scrutiny of regulatory agencies, government institutions, and third-party auditors. As a result, managers of food processing plants have started to pay more attention to the many hazards posed by physical, chemical, and microbial contaminants.
Flies, cockroaches, rodents, and ants are known carriers of disease and pathogens, and many food and beverage processing plants have various procedures in place to identify, treat, and prevent infestations. However, not many of them think of birds as a pest, despite the fact that they carry dozens of bacteria, parasites, and disease-causing pathogens that are just as dangerous to food safety and human health.
The three most notorious pest birds – sparrows, pigeons, and starlings – are common in and around industrial and commercial facilities such as food processing plants, restaurants, and grocery stores, because many of them offer food, water, and safe harbor.
Food processors are mandated by the law to manufacture safe foods. By definition, a safe food is a product that contains no physical, chemical, or biological hazards that if ingested could harm consumers and result in their illness, injury, and death. Many times, however, despite food processors’ efforts of implementing plant-wide protocols for detecting and preventing contaminants, extraneous objects or foreign matter find their way inside food products.
It is generally agreed upon that the most common methods of introducing physical hazards into food processing plants include those:
Other examples of extraneous materials include shell fragments, pit fragments, cleaning equipment (bristles, sponges, cloth), packaging materials, elastic bands, medications, band-aids, glove fragments, pencils, jewelry, keys, and paper clips.