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Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

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Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  greenmama on 3/22/2011, 3:05 pm

All the talk of cow, chicken, etc. compost kind of wigs me out. There are constantly recalls for meat and spinach (especially) for ecoli and salmonella, and it's coming from the animal poop fertilizer. So, what is there to assure me it's safe to grow my food in animal compost? Is it usually tested before it's allowed to be sold?

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  quiltbea on 3/22/2011, 3:24 pm

The problem is in the washing of the products. You need to be sure to wash your crops clean before eating them.

The biggest risk, I think, is lockjaw. Gardeners need to get their tetanus shot within the safe parameters, about once every 5 years.

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  camprn on 3/22/2011, 4:17 pm

@quiltbea wrote:The problem is in the washing of the products. You need to be sure to wash your crops clean before eating them.

The biggest risk, I think, is lockjaw. Gardeners need to get their tetanus shot within the safe parameters, about once every 5 years.
+1 on the Td inoculation!

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  greenmama on 3/22/2011, 8:55 pm

Oh dear! Now there's one I hadn't thought of! Shocked

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  Megan on 3/22/2011, 9:13 pm

Humanity has survived until now....and I managed to survive growing up on a farm with less than obsessive handwashing. Wink Even though compost doesn't cook as high as autoclave temperatures, it does a good job, and washing should do the rest. Given the choice, I much prefer animal poo as fertilizer to a bunch of chemicals. Your stomach has an extraordinarily low pH and should wipe out nasties, that's part of what it's there for. (Of course, if anyone is immune-compromised they should follow their doctor's instructions.)

All that being said, I think I DID get salmonella one time (or something frighteningly similar) as a young adult... and I wasn't gardening at the time, so it must have been from the supermarket or a restaurant. You, on the other hand, will be paying a very close eye to everything that comes in from your garden. YOU control it, you wash it. You should be fine.

And, +1 on the Td vax!

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  staf74 on 3/23/2011, 12:47 am

Okay, at the risk of being unpopular here I'm going to go with

-1 on the Td Vax recommendation.

I just don't think that giving what is tantamount to medical advice is appropriate here. We don't know the medical histories of people on the forum and the possible interactions they might have.

Medical literature also points to proper wound care as being a very effective tool against tetanus. I've been cut and scraped a thousand times by gardening but that's not to say I can tell anyone to not get the vax either, just that this forum is not the place to perhaps make those suggestions, however helpful we might think we are being.

Said in very nice devils advocate tone and happy to cheerfully disagree Smile

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  boffer on 3/23/2011, 1:11 am

@staf74 wrote:Okay, at the risk of being unpopular here I'm going to go with ...

We're gardeners...do you really think we're going to agree on anything?!!!! rofl

If you and your doctor agree you should get one, get it before you need it. Mine cost $160. There was a shortage in town at the time, and I needed it.

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  middlemamma on 3/23/2011, 1:37 am

No worries Staf...I am unpopular in that category too....thanks for being brave enough to vote opposite the majority! I wasn’t…notice I didn’t post! LOL

We won't always agree in our opinions, but we can always be polite about disagreeing. Smile Thank you for being so Staf.

It's nice to get the different opinions on things when you are searching for an answer. I know when I am looking for an answer to something the odd man out always makes me think more, ask another question, dig a little deeper, but ultimately it's my choice what to do and if I have all the info I dug up and I make my decision I at least feel like I made an informed one and I have no one to blame but me if it goes wrong.

And in all technicality the forum isn't a place for medical advice...but I know Bea from her posting so often she was being her thoughtful and kind self trying to answer the OP's question open and honestly to the very best of her ability! It is what she does. J

And the forum isn't really a place for a pro/con vax debate either....so I would appreciate no more posts along those lines from anyone. The OP has a legitimate question and I don’t want to have to lock the thread so she can get her answers. If anyone else has any more info regarding the OP's original question that would be great!!

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  boffer on 3/23/2011, 2:07 am

OK boss, back to the subject...

There is a humongus commercial composting facility up by Lavender Deb, in the Everett, WA area. Big enough that they get attention from local TV news crews and special interest reporters, and get some free air time.

What I have learned is that they are required to keep the compost temperatures at certain temperatures for a certain length of time in order to kill pathogens and other undesirables. The process data is logged and is available to authorities for unannounced inspections or if there should ever be a problem.


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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  sheslostit on 3/23/2011, 8:47 am

I was curious once i read this thread since I am a scientist by nature and like to know. Here's an interesting article....skip to the conclusion if the meat of the article puts you to sleep LOL....and yes its only one article., give me a few hours and i could post more but I have a garden and other things to attend to LOL

www.calrecycle.ca.gov/publications/organics/44200014.doc


But also remember, salmonella and e.coli are obtained from fecal-oral route, so just wash your produce well. Most of the news media you hear about from produce that was prewashed so people didn't wash it. There was probably a piece of lettuce that didn't get washed well enough and then spread to the rest of the supply. And of course wash your hands (or even better wear gloves) when handling compost.

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  greenmama on 3/23/2011, 9:01 am

Thanks everyone, and no worries! I'm on a few other message boards that make this look tame in comparison when it comes to vax discussion (wink).
I'm a total information geek Smile , and I can't wait to read the article the PP linked to. I like that people gave information on both sides of the issue so that we/I can think about and weigh the choices and decide which works best for our family. That can't happen if we only hear one side of the topic. So I think this discussion was a good thing!

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  FarmerValerie on 3/23/2011, 9:08 am

I'm not a health expert, and I am going to do further research on this (and recommend you do too) but I read that mixing a solution of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, equal parts and the time of need, will kill as many germs (or almost) as bleach. Both are natural products, and safe for humans. I've been known to clean my cutting board with it, I wish I had a test kit to check it. Just fill a bowl, rinse your veggies, then rinse with clean water.

As for hand cleaning, yes do so, but it's actually the rubbing that removes the germs, not so much the type of soap, the only time you really need antibacterial anything is after handling raw meat or changing diapers. I won't get into the how and why, I only say that to reassure those who don't have antibactiral soap or liquid on hand. And we want to keep the good germs if possible.

I do wear gloves (when I remember, I'm getting better), I do be very weary of rusty nails, tin, and such. If cut or scratched I wash immediately with a gentle soap (sensitive skin), and rinse with peroxide. I really do need to invest in a bar of lava, and try to manufacture my own pumice soap, with a more gentle soap in it for my hands.

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Is washing enough?

Post  ander217 on 3/23/2011, 9:24 am

When the e coli outbreak in spinach occurred a few years ago, I remember hearing on the news that just washing spinach did not always remove the bacteria. I looked online and found this article:

Is washing enough?

Basically it says that bacteria are sticky, and they can hide in little nooks and crannies in spinach and other produce. A thorough washing will get most of them, but there is no guarantee that a few don't remain.

It takes less than 200 e coli to cause problems. Those would probably fit on the point of a pin. My SIL contracted e coli from a food bar and survived it but has had kidney problems ever since. My cousin's beautiful 4 y/o daughter was not so lucky. Her family is still heartbroken over her loss, and they're not even certain whether she contracted it from her fast food hamburger or their later visit that day to a petting area at the local county fair. Health authorities determined that my SIL got hers from pot roast on a food bar. The container was replaced according to the time schedule as mandated by health regulations, but each time the server replaced the container she put the same spoon back into the food, so the beef on the spoon had been on the bar since 11 a.m. and my SIL ate a late meal at 1:30 which meant that some of the meat had been on that spoon for two and one half hours. Even though the original heating either destroyed or made the bacteria go dormant, the cooler temps allowed the dormant bacteria which remained to reactivate and start producing again.

Those experiences have made me extremely skittish on the subject of bacteria in food.

Things we usually peel such as muskmelons can have the bacteria on the skin, and when we slice through one, the knife spreads the bacteria throughout, so even produce we peel should be thoroughly washed before cutting.

As Megan said, humans come equipped to deal with bacteria we come in contact with on a daily basis, but sometimes conditions can occur which allow the bacteria to overcome our defenses. The only really safe way to eat spinach is to cook it thoroughly, but the chances of having problems from eating raw spinach or lettuce are small enough that I'm willing to risk it to enjoy a fresh salad. But I try to wash all fresh salad greens thoroughly myself, even if the package says, "Triple washed." When I pick my own from the garden I wash it through three waters, completely covering the leaves each time, swishing them around, and grabbing small handfuls and shaking the water from them vigorously, just as my mom taught me to do 50 years ago before people had ever heard of e coli.

So, Greenmama, IMHO even if you decide not to use manure-based fertilizers or compost in your garden, birds, mammals, and insects can still spread bacteria on the leaves, and some bacteria are airborne and will land on your plants. The best defense will still be to wash your produce thoroughly and keep your immune system healthy.

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  walshevak on 3/23/2011, 9:41 am

When living overseas you develop a habit of not eating any salads unless you or a trusted person prepares them. Overseas gardens frequently use "night soil" (human waste) All fresh fruits and vegetable were washed once in the local water to remove the surface soil, once in boiled water to which we added clorox and then completely rinsed in boiled and/or filtered or distilled water. ALL FRUITS AND VEGETABLES ! Brocolli and cauliflower were quickly blanched or preferabley cooked. Before distillers became a part of foreign service housing furnishings, the rule was peeled or cooked.

Kay

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  sheslostit on 3/23/2011, 12:29 pm

also remember...most ecoli and salmonella outbreaks in produce occur due to "night soil"...this is when animals (usually wild hogs) or humans defecate in the fields and that contaminate the source...or as previously stated the water source is contaminated. When I was in Honduras, most farms we visited were watered with stream waters, which is the same that the people bathed and washed in). Trust me, I didn't eat fresh lettuce there after seeing that. If animals are not getting to your garden and you are not using contaminated water, you should be fairly safe.

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  LaFee on 3/23/2011, 2:40 pm

just a friendly reminder that not all "overseas" is a developing nation. Some of them have hygiene standards at least as high as Uncle Sam.

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  FarmerValerie on 3/23/2011, 4:15 pm

I live next door to Louisiana and our local news is from Shreveort LA, they have a brown spot floating in the ocean right now, it has been determined that is is river silt from flooding up north that has floated down the Mississippi into the Gulf, common thing happens all the time. However, the funny part is this, the stuff has been tested (I kid you not, this is what was reported) by LA standards it is way above the levels deemed unsafe for human consumption. Makes you wonder what they deem unsafe. But hey, remove the salt and you have some kick butt garden tea from all that silt.

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  middlemamma on 3/23/2011, 4:21 pm

@LaFee wrote:just a friendly reminder that not all "overseas" is a developing nation. Some of them have hygiene standards at least as high as Uncle Sam.

So true LaFee....thank you for the reminder.

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  sheslostit on 3/23/2011, 4:23 pm

definately correct Lefee...i have been luckily enough to travel quite a bit overseas and ate fresh produce in many countries and didn't have any issues or concerns...i only avoided it areas where hygiene and health issues are a huge problem, like when I visited honduras.

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  acara on 3/23/2011, 4:26 pm

Most life forms on earth have managed to survive despite the presence of coliforms, including salmonella/shigella, for a lot of years ..... I'll take my chances with them vs. some of the newer synthetic/derivative chemicals anyday Very Happy

But I do still think snorting large handfuls of raw compost more than twice a day might be detrimental to your general state of health ...... regardless of the current state of your vaccination record Very Happy Very Happy

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Re: Should I be worried about ecoli and salmonella in compost?

Post  walshevak on 3/23/2011, 5:48 pm

@LaFee wrote:just a friendly reminder that not all "overseas" is a developing nation. Some of them have hygiene standards at least as high as Uncle Sam.

You are so right LaFee. Almost all of Europe, Great Britain and Ireland were no problem and I'm sure some of the other are good to go.

Point is, if you take a little care, all is well. I just happened to get sent to a few iffy places.

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