Aquaponics and Food Safety

A big stir has been caused lately by a well known Aquaponics Operation warning strongly against worms in Aquaponics.

I’m going to talk a bit on this topic and what I believe are the more key underlying concerns.

See it really isn’t the worms. It is the possible pathogenic bacteria that can be associated with certain feed stock for worms.
Namely e. coli introduced from cattle manure (In particular the E. coli H0157:H7.) Worms actually have the beneficial effect of reducing most pathogenic bacteria from vermicomposted material. However, it can be rather difficult to make sure that every spec of material passes through the worm without later coming in contact with something that might still be contaminated before it gets used. So it may be best to make sure your worms are clean before introducing them to your salad system.

As noted, humans in our quest for bigger faster cheaper created a situation where cows not intended to eat grain are being fed grain to fatten them faster and because they are not evolved to eat grain the cows get sour guts that cause them problems like bacterial blooms in their digestive tracts and so they get fed antibiotics wich will upset the microbal balance even more. All this human intervention along with the cows being crowded together eating the wrong food has created an environment where new and more dangerous bacteria evolve. As noted, they exist now, we can’t unmake them.

So where does all this leave us? I’m not really keen on the newsletter article that seems to be blasting worms but I suppose I can kinda understand the underlying fear that might prompt such an over-reaction. Here is the underlying fear I see…
It doesn’t actually require aquaponics to be the source of some illness to really hurt aquaponic farming. All it would take is a statement pointing at aquaponic produce as the suspected source of an outbreak and it could ruin anyone making a living by farming aquaponically. The outbreak of food born illness in Europe not so long ago with different products getting the finger pointed at them and many of them not actually being the source didn’t save them from disaster of all their produce being thrown out.

Now I don’t really see how blasting worms would protect anyone from this fear but I do think it is important that everyone should practice good hygiene around their aquaponics. Keep warm blooded animals out of your Aquaponics and don’t introduce uncomposted warm blooded animal manure into your aquaponics systems. (This includes chicken and duck poo, I’m very careful to keep the duck-a-ponics very separate from the Aquaponics.)

If you are feeding the worms in your aquaponics system, make sure flys don’t have access to the worm food since they could go from some animal waste that is outside somewhere and then be attracted to the worm food if they can access it.

Remember that most food born illness is actually caused by contamination that people cause in the handling of the food after it is grown. So if you avoid warm blooded animal manure and handle the food properly in a clean environment then aquaponics is safe.

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