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Arizona Lettuce Growers Facing Challenge of Waterborne E.coli Contamination

01/09/2019

Cooperation between the University of Arizona Extension Service and various producers’ organizations will hopefully result in meaningful monitoring of irrigation water for the presence of pathogens. The FDA identified contaminated water as the vehicle of infection in the STEC outbreak attributed to lettuce grown in the Yuma Valley in 2018.

The canal supplying a number of lettuce farms has apparently been repaired in advance of planting.

More than twenty organizations and individual agencies are represented on three new committees to review factors associated with contamination of Romaine lettuce. Producers’ organizations are still attempting to improve communication with operators of feedlots and various research projects have been initiated.

At the end of the day, if STEC is identified in water, it is inevitable that Romaine lettuce from the Yuma Valley will be contaminated and that outbreaks of food-borne infection will occur in 2019. It will take more than committees and research projects to ensure the safety and ultimately the image and viability of Arizona Romaine lettuce. Electron beam pasteurization is the only practical post-harvest prevention of food-borne STEC infection from lettuce.