Coming to consensus seems to be the route that this site is taking, and I think democratization of the topic in terms of statements and coverage areas may be better suited for discussion in a Forum setting, rather than just as a topic, which basically just winds up being a running thread (not that they aren't valuable in moving everything in the community forward), but Forums seem to me to be more about larger topics and general guidelines.
> I'm opening this new topic to be able to help easily define direction for food safety information, and to make the subject open to broader input on an easy to find location. I thank you all for your future input in these discussions.
According to the American Academy of Microbiology food safety paper, " Consumers are often unaware of, or fail to apply, safe food handling practices."( http://academy.asm.org/images/stories/documents/Global_Food_Safety.pdf
). In conjunction with the caveats of proper food handling, and liberal hand washing between dealing with different components of the system, aquaponic can be a very safe source of food. As a Chef, and both a consumer and aquaponic producer, I have a rather unique vantage point on the subject of food safety. The trust relationship that one has with the provider of one's food is incredibly basic and implicit. As a consumer, you must trust the food source completely, as what they provide becomes a physical part of who you are. In my food service career, I was responsible for thousands of meals a week for over 25 years. I take the trust relationship very seriously, and I feel that I give the subject the importance which it warrants. If an aquaponic farm won't let you see their production area, it's not to protect trade secrets, it's to protect the image. Know where your food comes from, and recognize the potential of aquaponics to earn local trust and support those around you directly, and remember, not all aquaponics systems and owners are created equally. If you are interested in the business, seek it out, and train yourself as both while inspecting closely the quality and process of great local food.
My goal here is to quickly create a framework for understanding of the importance of food safety, to help hobby aquaponists understand the risks, as well as provide a jumping off point for further study for the hobbyist, the consumer, and the commercial grower. I encourage every consumer to understand what astronauts get for food safety, which is the safest food possible, the (7 principles of HACCP http://foodsafety.unl.edu/haccp/start/gettingstarted.html
). The problem with most food safety lectures is that they are just plain scary. It's a teaching tactic, to impress upon the audience the dangers possible for chemical, bacterial, or physical contamination of the food, and it works, and can easily turn the cautious into paranoids with oversaturation of negative information. We are each responsible for our own choices, and making intelligent choices is our survival instinct at its best. I don't think aquaponics needs to scare anyone, it's an accepted part of the food stream at major cities throughout North America, fulfilling the roles of the three buzzwords; natural, sustainable, and organic (although the last is open to vigorous debate). As local as your living room, and you're the one that fed the fish, so you know exactly what went into it. Wash your hands often, don't handle the roots if possible, and maintain the balance of you system, and you'll increase the safety and proximity of your own food.
The food safety aspects of each commercial aquaponic operation are specifically contingent upon the food being produced and the recognized hazards associated with that type of production. While aquaponics is a new technology, and will undoubtedly run into some problems not seen in other types of operations, we can use the separated components of aquaculture and agriculture to get an idea of what some of the potential issues will be and work to understand and mitigate those risks. Here are two specific studies on aquaponic food safety -- http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/FST-38.pdf
- which are frequently used as benchmarks for demonstrating aquaponic food safety in business ventures.
Please add additional links and related information below, or in sub-discussions if you think they are important enough. I feel that all the papers I cited are worth deeper discussions into practice in aquaponic gardening on all scales, from micro to commercial.