Why Peanuts Are A No-Go

Find out what you need to know about peanuts and how they might hurt your bird's health.

Turn down this nut for your bird.  Via  Pixabay
Turn down this nut for your bird. Via Pixabay

Peanuts are so tasty and delicious. No wonder birds like them. Too bad they may be an item you don’t want to feed to them.

And here’s why:

Peanuts are not tree nuts. They grow underground in the dirt. Other things grow in the dirt as well, including fungi.

One of these fungi could very well become a problem for your parrot should she ingest any.

The big concern here with peanuts and your bird is aflatoxins. Well, what are they?

According to Cornell University’s Department of Agriculture and Life Sciences, “Aflatoxins are toxic metabolites produced by certain fungi in/on foods and feeds.?They go on to report that are probably the most well known and most thoroughly researched and studied mycotoxins in the world.

This led me to think, “OK. I?l bite. What? a mycotoxin??which led me to this quote from the U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by microfungi that are capable of causing disease and death in humans and other animals.?lt;/span>

Well, that was certainly a mouthful. I? not really that up to speed with microbiology so I had to do some real digging.

I found an interesting report at the Cornell website. It described an incident that occurred in 1960 where more than 100,000 young turkeys on poultry farms in England died over a few months time from an as of yet new disease that was termed “Turkey X disease.?They discovered very quickly that this disease was not limited to turkeys. Ducklings and young pheasants also perished.

They quickly started work and discovered that this disease was associated with what these birds had been fed: Brazilian peanut meal. They investigated the suspect peanut meal and found that this peanut meal was highly toxic to poultry and ducklings. This toxicity produced symptoms of Turkey X disease.They suspected that the culprit was fungal in nature and in 1961 they had bagged the predator: the toxin-producing fungus was identified as Aspergillus flavus (1961) and they named the toxin Aflatoxin.

So what causes this mold to occur in crops? In a word: moisture. Crops are contaminated after harvest if they are somehow delayed in the drying process and the moisture is allowed to exceed what is required for mold growth. And if you have a warm temperature, insects or rodents hanging around as many farms do, this just exacerbates the situation.

Aflatoxin is a potent liver toxin, and birds are extremely susceptible to the toxic effects of this mycotoxin.

The scary part of this is that this mycotoxin is just as dangerous to humans as it is to birds. While low level exposure to foods containing these mycotoxins may not cause immediate death in a human, there have been reports of another issue. Exposure to these mycotoxins in food, which is not enough to cause illness might have something else up its sleeve:

Chronic, low-level exposure in food, which is not enough to cause acute toxicity or death, results in a high incidence of liver cancer. Aflatoxin is one of the few proven human dietary carcinogens.

And apparently, roasting peanuts really doesn’t take care of the problem entirely either.

So what? a family to do? Yes, we all know those peanut butter talon sandwiches can be a delightful treat for our parrot. And they love them so!

Luckily, more and more products are being introduced and are being made more readily available to us. There are many tree nut spreads such as almond butter that can easily replace peanut butter in any food item you want to present to your parrot. For a safer way to go with your flock, simply replace peanut butter with almond butter and offer almonds or other types of tree nuts instead of peanuts. There are so many good things in the world that are safe for them to eat. Simply avoiding the questionable items is probably the best way to go in keeping your birds healthy and well-fed.

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