USDA Invests in Produce Safety

$5.5 million aims to support research to identify risk factors for E. coli.

Published on: Aug 24, 2007

USDA is continuing its research on produce safety with $5.5 million to support collaborative research identifying risk factors and preventive measures for E. coli O157:H7 contamination.

USDA's Agricultural Research Service and Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service will provide funding to ARS researcher Bob Mandrell and his collaborators at the University of California to continue their research in the Central Valley of California. In the next three years, ARS will contribute $5 million and CSREES will add $470,999. In 2006, CSREES awarded Mandrell and colleague Robert Atwill at the University of California-Davis $1.2 million to do research in the Salinas Valley.

Mandrell will address where E. coli originates, how it survives on the plant, and what factors lead to an increase in produce-related outbreaks. Potential risk factors include animals, land practices, packing and processing, and wildlife.

The project will also feature workshops and publications to educate animal operators, natural resource managers and the public about animal diseases that can be transferred to humans, how animal waste can contaminate water sources, and beneficial management practices for maintaining and improving water runoff quality.

Outbreaks of E. coli illness associated with fresh lettuce and spinach have been associated with pre-harvest contamination.