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Consumers are very concerned about food safety and quality due to a number of food-related news which has received a great deal of media attention. Consumers are more than ever concerned about obtaining safe food. Food safety is about handling, storing and preparing food to prevent illness and to help to ensure that food retains enough nutrients in order for us to have a healthy diet. Food safety is the assurance that food will not cause harm to the consumer when it is prepared and/or eaten according to its intended use (WHO & FAO 2009). Ignoring food safety principles means that good food will go bad. Taking shortcuts by avoiding preventive measures which make food safe can have negative effects on health and even shorten people’s lives.
Whoever sells food, regardless of the amount, has both an ethical and legal obligation to ensure that the food is safe to consume. All steps in the food chain (from farm to fork or, in the case of aquaponics, from raft to plate), including plant harvesting and fish slaughter, should be managed in a way that ensures that the food is safe and suitable for its intended use (WHO & FAO 2009). Primary produce (products of primary production consisting of a natural raw material - an unmanufactured product) should also be protected from different kinds of hazards. A hazard is a (micro)biological, chemical or physical agent in, or condition of, food which has the potential to cause an adverse health effect. In general, we distinguish between four types of food-related hazards (Table 1), where the biggest focus in aquaponics is on the (micro)biological. Allergen control is an emerging area of concern, and detailed labelling requirements are now in place in the EU. Fish and products thereof are listed in Annex II to Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers as one of fourteen allergens which have to be considered in hazard analysis.
Table 1: Main food-related hazards in aquaponics
(MICRO) BIOLOGICALPathogenic bacteria, viruses, fish parasites, moulds, fungiCHEMICALResidues of plant protection products, veterinary medicines, sanitizers, cleaning agents, test kit reagents, lubricantPHYSICALForeign bodies (metal, glass, wood, parts of packaging material, dust, stones, plastic or glass fragments, needles, etc.)ALLERGENSCereals containing gluten, crustaceans and products thereof, eggs and products thereof, fish and products thereof, peanuts and products thereof, soybeans and products thereof, milk and products thereof (including lactose), nuts and products thereof (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia or Queensland nuts), celery and products thereof, mustard and products thereof, sesame seeds and products thereof, sulphur dioxide and sulphites, lupin and products thereof, molluscs and products thereof.Note: for exceptions please see Annex II to Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011.
The main objective of this chapter is to ensure consumer protection through the production of safe food at the first stage of the food supply chain. Therefore, aquaponic producers must be aware of the food safety risk factors, and should maintain the highest level of adherence to good agricultural practice (GAP) and good hygiene practice (GHP) which are described in detail below. Primary produce that is grown with little contamination is less likely to result in health hazards caused by poor handling during the food preparation stages.
Andrej Ovca, Tjaša Griessler Bulc
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