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Superfoods

It is amazing what you find when you start field walking. After a crop of Oil Seed Rape slugs are always present in the next crop. In this instance I was surprised to see dead slugs of this size; I could imagine they could have had quite an appetite!


Maybe Slugs (and snails) should be considered the next “Superfood?” An average snail comprises 80% water, 15% protein and 2.4% fat. They contain essential fatty acids, calcium, iron, selenium, magnesium and are a rich source of vitamins E, A, K and B12.

In fact a report on the nutritional value of the common gastropod concluded that snail meat contained amino acids arginine and lysine at levels higher than in whole eggs. This high-protein, low-fat content of snail meat makes it a healthy alternative food.”


I would however, STONGLY advise against picking up field or garden snails or slugs and attempting to eat them whether cooked or raw.


In agriculture we generally don’t harvest these creatures rather we are more interested in killing them before their feeding activities cause commercial damage to our crops.

To this end, Iron Phosphate Slug Bait has made significant inroads into the agricultural market riding on claims of being "natural" and safe to use around pets and other wildlife. The claims about safety seem based around the fact that iron phosphate occurs widely in nature. (It is also used in vitamin supplements.) So it seems these products “pass” without much further testing.


Iron phosphate baits are mostly a food-based pellet that smells strongly like cereal, apparently to attract the slugs from a distance.

Labels lists iron phosphate as the active ingredient and sometimes "inert ingredients". This one “inert” (unidentified) ingredient, upon enquiry appears to be wheat gluten. I don’t seem to find much evidence that they contain Bitrex to prevent unintentional ingestion.


So what happens when mammals consume them? Essentially iron phosphate passes through the digestive system largely if not completely unchanged, in truth making it pretty harmless. A bait made up of iron phosphate and wheat gluten would in fact be as safe as it is advertised to be. It would also NOT kill slugs or snails and would rot much quicker than you might like when applied as a slug “deterrent”.


The first signs that these pellets are not perhaps “harmless” to the unintended was seen as far back as 2008 when a report stated "5 domestic animal deaths, 8 major domestic animal incidents and 106 moderate and minor domestic animal incidents occurred from the use of iron phosphate slug and snail baits"


So why? Iron phosphate is non-toxic to both humans and dogs, as well as other pets and wildlife. Studies also show that it is equally non-toxic to slugs and snails, because it does not release its load of poisonous elemental iron very easily.

If this is the case, why do other studies show that it is a very effective product that rivals the metaldehyde baits? How can these baits made of nothing but iron phosphate and wheat gluten be as effective as they are shown to be when other studies show that snails can live indefinitely on a diet of iron phosphate?



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