U.S – An ongoing study supported by the Center for Produce Safety is examining the presence of various species in agriculture and whether they carry and transmit foodborne infections in an effort to assist growers in reducing the hazards to food safety posed by wild birds.

The ultimate objective is to use the findings to generate a comprehensive assessment of the food safety risk posed by wild farmland birds, including a photographic guide to assist growers in identifying birds and the possible food safety problems they may represent in various situations.

Ecologist Daniel Karp, Ph.D., of the University of California, Davis, is in charge of the study.

The project’s molecular study is being directed by Microbiologist Jeffery McGarvey, Ph.D., of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

Dr. Karp’s talks with producers who voiced uncertainty about the threats to food safety posed by wild birds served as the basis for this study.

The farmers explained that a sizeable section of their fields would need to be disked if they implemented a roughly 1-meter buffer around every single piece of human waste they detected, regardless of size.

The study is concentrating on bird species that have been overlooked in earlier research, and it mainly observes species that gather in sizable groups near animal feeding facilities and garbage dumps.

Many other bird species, such as swallows or bluebirds, which are commonly seen in or flying over agriculture, pose unknown threats.

The research team is collaborating with 20 agricultural businesses in California that gave them access to their fields so they could inspect for animal waste and catch birds with mist nets.

The study is made up of three parts. Capturing birds, identifying the species, and gathering fecal samples for testing for Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Escherichia coli that produce Shiga toxin is one part of the experiment.

In addition, scientists will carry out fecal transects, which entail looking for feces in a predetermined area for sampling.

About 200 fecal samples from wild turkeys and Western bluebirds were treated with E. coli in experimental field plots for the third component of the project.

To ascertain pathogen survivability under various field circumstances, the samples were placed on bare soil, plastic mulch, and lettuce leaves.

According to preliminary findings, the size of the feces and the type of substrate both had an impact on how fast the pathogens died, with the microorganisms dying more quickly in the smaller feces.

On soil and plastic mulch, pathogen survival was also lower than on lettuce leaves.

Dr. Karp will use the study’s findings to create a comprehensive assessment of the food safety risks posed by farming birds, taking into account situations where birds might help crops, such as by eating insects and other pests.

For instance, if future research reveals that small birds pose a low danger to food quality and that their little feces are not favorable to disease survival, farmers may be able to reduce the number of high-risk bird species while still benefiting from the advantages provided by small birds.

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