Agricultural intensification heightens food safety risks posed by wild birds

Smith, Olivia M., Edworthy, Amanda, Taylor, Joseph M., Jones, Matthew S., Tormanen, Aaron, Kennedy, Christina M., Fu, Zhen, Latimer, Christopher E., Cornell, Kevin A., Michelotti, Lucas A., Sato, Chika, Northfield, Tobin, Snyder, William E., and Owen, Jeb P. (2020) Agricultural intensification heightens food safety risks posed by wild birds. Journal of Applied Ecology, 57 (11). pp. 2246-2257.

PDF (Published Version) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (1MB) | Preview
View at Publisher Website:


Agricultural intensification and simplification are key drivers of recent declines in wild bird populations, heightening the need to better balance conservation with food production. This is hindered, however, by perceptions that birds threaten food safety. While birds are known reservoirs of foodborne pathogens, there remains uncertainty about the links between landscape context, farming practices, and actual crop contamination by birds. Here, we examine relationships between landscape context, farming practices, and pathogen contamination by birds using a barrier-to-spillover approach. First, we censused bird communities using point count surveys. Second, we collected 2,024 faecal samples from captured birds alongside 1,215 faecal samples from brassica fields and food processing areas across 50 farms spanning the USA West Coast. We then estimated the prevalence of three foodborne pathogens across landscape and livestock intensification gradients. Finally, we quantified the number of plants with faeces. Campylobacterspp. were detected in 10.2% of faeces from captured birds and 13.1% of faeces from production areas. Non-native birds were 4.1 times more likely to haveCampylobacterspp. than native birds.Salmonellaspp. were detected in 0.2% of faeces from production areas and were never detected in captured birds. We detected evidence of Shiga toxigenicE. coliin one sample across the >3,200 tested. Campylobacterspp. prevalence in faeces from production areas increased with increasing mammalian livestock densities in the landscape but decreased with increasing amounts of natural habitat. We encountered bird faeces on 3.3% of plants examined. Despite the impact on pathogen prevalence, amount of natural habitat in the landscape did not increase the number of plants with bird faeces, although on-farm mammalian livestock density slightly did. Synthesis and applications. Food safety and wildlife conservation are often thought to be in conflict. However, our findings suggest that natural habitat around farms may reduce crop contamination rates by birds. This is perhaps because natural habitat can promote native birds that are less likely to harbour foodborne pathogens or because it decreases contact with livestock waste. Our results suggest that preservation of natural habitats around farms could benefit both conservation and food safety, contrary to current standards for 'best practices'.

Item ID: 64334
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2664
Keywords: Campylobacter, E, coli, European starling, food safety, house sparrow, landscape context, Salmonella, wild birds
Copyright Information: © 2020 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
Funders: Washington State University (WSU), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Projects and Grants: NIFA Grant Number: 2014‐03354, NIFA Grant Number: 2015‐51300‐24155, NIFA Grant Number: 2016‐04538
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2020 07:34
FoR Codes: 30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3002 Agriculture, land and farm management > 300202 Agricultural land management @ 50%
30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3006 Food sciences > 300605 Food safety, traceability, certification and authenticity @ 50%
Downloads: Total: 323
Last 12 Months: 57
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page