In the spring of 2018, a crisis emerged with the contamination of romaine lettuce by E. coli 0157:H7 grown in the Yuma, Arizona area. Five people died and hundreds more were sickened.
The ongoing environmental assessment and its findings hold food safety lessons for Canadian growers. As Scott Gottlieb, Food and Drug Administration commission explained in a November 1 report, three samples of irrigation canal water confirmed the presence of E. coli. But it’s still unclear how the lettuce was contaminated. In his report, he said:
“… the most likely way the romaine lettuce became contaminated was from the use of water from the irrigation canal, since the outbreak strain was not found in any of the other samples collected in the region. How the water contaminated the lettuce is uncertain. But based on interviews with growers and pesticide applicators, possible explanations include direct application of irrigation canal water to the lettuce crop or the use of irrigation canal water to dilute crop-protection chemicals applied to the crops through both aerial and land-based spray applications. We cannot rule out other ways the lettuce became contaminated. It’s important to note that we have no evidence that any other product grown in Yuma was contaminated by this water.
When and how the irrigation canal became contaminated with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 is also uncertain. We know that a large concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) is located adjacent to this stretch of the irrigation canal where the samples were collected. This is one potential source. However, the investigation did not identify an obvious route for contamination of the irrigation canal from this facility. In addition, samples collected at the CAFO did not yield E. coli O157:H7. The investigation did not exclude other ways the irrigation canal could have become contaminated with this outbreak strain.”
For more details in the report, go to: https://bit.ly/2yNrQrr