Contaminated Water Lead to E. Coli in Lettuce, FDA Investigation Found
[Thursday, November 8, 2018]
Earlier this year, there was a major episode of pathogenic E. Coli contamination of lettuce grown in Yuma County, Arizona that led to hundreds of infections reported in about 36 states, and 5 deaths. FDA created an Environmental Assessment (EA) Team including members from the CDC, and local agricultural experts and found that the infections originated in water used for irrigation in several farms in the region. Since the E. Coli strain O157:H7 is commonly found in the intestinal tract of ruminant animals (e.g., cattle, goats, and deer) and shed in their manure, most likely irrigational water was contaminated with animal waste. The EA team also found various deviations from Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) such as lack of adequate testing of water, inadequate monitoring of neighboring land use, lack of traceability, and bad documentation practices. It seems from the report of findings released by the EA team most of these issues are addressable by following GAP. FDA recommendations paint a carefully crafted message to the farmers to take adequate precautions with produce intended for human consumption. Although these findings were made for lettuce grown in one area in the country, they are applicable to the farms across the nation.