Association contends aquaponics offer a solution to some food safety issues

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Emma Hayes

There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.

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The Annandale, VA-based Aquaponics Association is out with an article touting its growing methods as “solutions to foodborne illness outbreaks.”

The Aquaponics Association is a nonprofit organization that cultivates aquaponics through “education, advocacy, and connection.” 

Written by the Aquaponics Association’s Victoria Mirowsky, the article notes that there are more than 250 identified foodborne diseases that are caused by “bacteria, viruses, and parasites infecting humans throughout the world.”

“Among the most common, and most publicly known, is Escherichia coli (E.coli), which can be found in leafy greens, meat, and other produce,” she writes.

A closer look at aquaponics is a reasonable and viable option to decrease the risk of all foodborne pathogens, including E. coli, that may lower the chances of foodborne illnesses, she contends. The complete article is at www.aquaponicsassociation.org. 

The continued excerpts, subject to editing for space and content, are from the article.

 Though not always a guarantee, the CDC, USDA, FDA, and state agencies suggest following steps to prevent E. Coli illness. 

In addition, knowing consumers are following these steps and farmers/sellers are conducting proper safety measures, fewer E. coli outbreaks are likely.

Soilless growing offers a viable alternative to growing crops in a low-risk environment for many microbial sources. Aquaponic foods, which are often greenhouse-grown, are an innovative way of growing fish and plants in rural or urban settings. 

For years, commercial aquaponic farms have obtained food safety certifications from Global GAP, USDA Harmonized GAP, Primus GFS, and the SWF Food Safety Program and certified USDA organic (Aquaponic Association, 2019) and sold commercially across North America.

In an aquaponic system, the healthy microbes actually serve as biological control agents against pathogenic bacteria making their survival minimal. While aquaponics produce is not immune to all pathogenic contamination, it is one of the safest agriculture methods to use against pathogenic risk. 

It’s important to note that fish are cold-blooded, and they can’t host E. Coli as a pathogen, and in turn the entrance of this pathogen in the system will be because of warm-blooded animals.

 It is also seen that some farmers utilize water directly, unfiltered or treated, from rivers for overhead irrigation which like an aquaponic system has fish and fish feces present, among other potential contaminants, yet is not restricted like aquaponics farming.

This finding is also supported by numerous other studies testing for the presence of E. coli. One study looked at different systems, five hydroponic and three aquaponic. All were similar in overall design, but they differed in size, temperature, and potential for food safety contamination. 

Tests were positive for chloroform, but only three systems tested positive for the presence of E. coli above the limit of detection for generic E. coli, and they were all hydroponic systems – not aquaponic systems.

Operators can improve food safety and hazard standards through training, standard operating procedures, and legal compliances. An alternative is looking into innovative growing techniques that prove to be more resistant and safe against foodborne pathogens. 

Aquaponics can be seen as at as a reasonable option, offering potential actions with incentives to retailers and wholesalers that buy from aquaponic farmers for specific pathogen-prone crops like lettuce.

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Emma Hayes

There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.

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