botulism & composting ?

gardener1908July 22, 2009

Lot of talk over on the Harvest Forum about improper food canning and spoilage esp., botulism. I recently started a compost pile and while waiting for my husband to build it, I had some veggie scraps in a trash can in a plastic bag waiting for the pile. When I went to put it in it was rather like, shall we say, *veggie soup*and smelly. Now I'm wondering if this is a safe pile or could I be starting a major health hazard? It is in a mixed layers of shredded leaves and fresh yard & garden waste. Granted, I probaly should have just thrown it away,(polluted the local landfills?) Tried to do a search and couldn't come up with anything. I plan to use this in my beds next year for my market garden and surely don't need this kind of worry. I understand that the toxins are not destroyed at temps under 240 degrees. Now I did not get sick from breathing and handling the mix. Am I worried for nothing or is there reason for concern? Help much appreciated.

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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Germs, bacteria are everywhere... which is the primary reason why we wash and cook our food.

Unless you are planning to eat your compost, I wouldn't worry about it.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 10:39AM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

A perfectly fine question to ask, but you are worrying about nothing. Compost is SUPPOSED to rot. Your stuff was stinky because it was sealed in a plastic bag, and it will reequilibrate in air. Botulism, for one thing, is strictly anaerobic and can't survive in an aerobic compost pile.

There are approx. 10 to 100-million microbes per GRAM of soil, representing thousands of varieties. Somehow, we survive.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 1:41PM
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gardengal48

And you are mistaken about the temperatures compost needs to achieve to destroy both plant and human disease pathogens. It only requires three days at 135F to kill off disease pathogens....and that's not very difficult to achieve if you have active and frequently turned pile.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 3:58PM
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takadi(7)

There are three things you can do to "sterilize" your compost. First, you can hot compost, which can kill pathogens, but it is not a guaranteed process. Second, you can even resort to baking or microwaving your compost, not something I would recommend, and kinda defeats the whole point of compost if you're just gonna killed all the beneficial bacteria as well. Third is a suggestion from the humanure manual, and that is to let the compost age for at least 1-2 years, the longer the better. Supposedly the pathogens get outcompeted by the billions of other good bacteria which take up residence

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 5:03PM
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lazy_gardens

Botulin toxin, as far as a compost heap is concerned, is just another protein. There are bacteria and fungi in there that can break it down to amino acids.

Don't worry about it.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 7:56PM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

Agreed and if you spend to much time reading the harvest forum it will scare the bejeus out of you

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 8:49PM
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auntyara(5a)

this forum too.
I thought I may have poisoned the village below me from composting a loaf of moldy bread,
scared me to death for a few seconds.
thank goodness it was all just someones "personal preference gone wild".
SCARED THE @#$#OUT OF ME THOUGH.
p.s.
it's o.k. to compost moldy food.
Laura

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 10:00PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Botulism generally develops in an anerobic condtion, ie. that closed jar of canned vegetables, not in the compost pile unless the compost is in a container that really excludes air.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 7:25AM
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gardener1908

Thanks for the replies. It's kinda what I thought, but you get to thinking, what if,and next thing you know your worried about poisoning the village below. LOL The 240 degrees was the temp. for processing food, not the compost pile which I understand needs to get to about 140 - 160, ideally. Yeah, the Harvest forum can kinda scare you if you read too much, but they are trying to teach safety and are a big help for those who haven't done much food preserving. I will relax now and try to get my waste out so it can decompose naturally vs. rotting. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 8:13AM
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texaslynn

I am new to this forum but have been composting for years; have three large bins going right now! Which is almost kinda funny since I had to go buy some bagged stuff because none of the three are ready yet! I am very excited to read the stuff on here!

I am no expert at all - but maybe the thing that is of concern is not botulism but e-coli? Which would be something that would be somewhat of risk if using manure? Of course, she didn't mention using manure, just a worry about rotting veggies but e-coli is the only pathogen that comes to my mind (I'm trying in vain to remember the last book on composting I read). This book warned against using manure for "manure tea" because of the risk of e-coli. It said to use only thoroughly composted compost to brew the stuff.

I do use manure in my compost since I have horses but no longer add any poo to my brew :)

Lynn

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 7:08PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

If manures are used then things like E-Coli, Salmonella, Listeria and a couple of other potential diseases might be of concern, but if you properpy compost that manure (human or animal) even those would not be of major concern. The concern would be putting uncomposted manure on your garden.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 7:26AM
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lazy_gardens

texaslynn -
The E coli that is a pathogen can't compete with the soil bacteria and fungi very well. As long as you don't spray fresh manure tea onto the lettuce, you will be OK.

There are other varieties that are normal inhabitants of digestive tracts of mammals - they are not often pathogenic.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 10:22AM
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