Stricter metrics mean no E. coli outbreaks in Yuma lettuce
PHOENIX — This year’s Yuma lettuce harvest produced no deadly E. coli strains, but Arizona is still finding ways to keep future crops safe.
Credit goes to more cleanliness for planting and harvesting.
That applies to “a lot of water testing, handling, machinery that’s leased,” said Robert Smook with Arizona’s Department of Agriculture.
He also says a new partnership with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, the Food and Drug Administration and Yuma growers and shippers will produce more safeguards against E. coli over the next five years.
That will lead to “extensive, exhaustive steps in ensuring that we have safe romaine,” Smook said. “All of those metrics were taken into account. Everybody embraced those.”
The collaboration has also assessed potential sources of microbial contamination in the growing region.
It also evaluated the prevalence and persistence of pathogens in the ecosystem and the effect that temporal fluctuations from season to season might have on microorganisms of public health significance that may be in and/or near the growing environment, Smook explained.
Last year’s E. coli lettuce outbreak from Yuma killed five people and sickened hundreds more throughout the West.