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[SANET-MG] no smoking cow?
There seems to be a real effort to stop trying to pin the spinach
outbreak on organic food. However, it is clear that organic farmers will
have to steer clear of cows! It seems strange that fresh produce was
being produced near cattle operations, it is strangely mindless. A
number of outbreaks are associated with fruit and vegetable production
near cattle pastures along with the pollution of municipal wells near
cattle pastures.The latest outbreak seems to be inexcusable? A fresh
poop patrol on the field will not help as much as a relatively quick
and inexpensive ELISA test for E coli 0157 in the surface or
irrigation water of the field. Farmers near cattle operations should
split the cost of the tests with the cattle operator.
Spinach contamination linked to cattle feces
Los Angeles Times
California and federal officials probing the recent E. coli outbreak
linked to spinach said Thursday that they have found the genetic match
of the bacterium in cattle feces near a farm suspected of supplying the
tainted greens.The discovery represented a major breakthrough for
investigators, who in years of tracking spinach or lettuce outbreaks
have never before found a matching E. coli sample in the environment
near where the tainted greens were grown.
The finding did not answer how the spinach was contaminated with the
virulent strain of E. coli that has killed three and sickened nearly 200
Still, "finding a close or identical strain is sufficiently rare that it
speaks volumes about the likely source," said University of California,
Davis, plant pathologist Trevor Suslow, who has studied pathogens in
spinach and lettuce in the Salinas Valley.
The breakthrough underscored a key concern of health officials: the
close proximity of cattle, whose feces can carry the dangerous bacteria,
to farms growing ready-to-eat greens.
"We do not have a smoking `cow' at this point," said Kevin Reilly,
deputy director for prevention services at the California Department of
Health Services. But, he said, at the farm neighboring the cattle
pasture where the strain was isolated, "the fields are surrounded,
frankly, by pastures where livestock are kept." The spinach farm's
operator leases its land from the cattle ranch owner, and the two
operations are separated by a paved road and fences.
The fecal samples that matched the E. coli strain in the outbreak were
found in a pasture about half a mile to a mile away from the spinach field.
The closeness between cattle and leafy green operations in the Salinas
Valley area is "not uncommon," Reilly said.
Not all of the four farms suspected in the outbreak have both spinach
and livestock operations, Reilly said. Local agricultural officials say
most cattle ranching is done in the foothills, while leafy greens are
largely grown in the fertile valley bottom.
"The proximity ... has always been an issue of concern," said Robert
Brackett, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's food
safety center. Officials, farmers and scientists said Thursday's
announcement raises a question: Should minimum distances be set between
fields that grow leafy greens and cattle pastures?
"If you have cattle in a pasture that's adjoining where you're growing
lettuce or spinach crops, you have a problem," said Caroline Smith
DeWaal, food safety director for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for
Science in the Public Interest.
"You have to create zones around the field to make sure the cattle
manure can't get into the farm field," she said. "To narrow the solution
to one field or one group of cattle would be missing the more systemic
problem that may exist in the Salinas Valley." Even before the
announcement, some farmers and cattlemen have informally expressed
concerns about the possibility of having to create buffer zones between
fields and pasture land.
"You're talking about huge amounts of private property," said Bob
Perkins, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau.
Matthew Byrne, the California Cattlemen's Association's executive vice
president, said cattle ranchers have already been putting practices in
place over the past decade to prevent runoff and water contamination,
such as researching the slope of land, fencing off creek sides and
planting buffer zones.The state Department of Food and Agriculture has
no regulations regarding the distance between cattle and fresh produce
operations, said spokesman Steve Lyle. But having a field of spinach
neighboring a cattle field does violate so-called Good Agricultural
Practices, a voluntary set of national guidelines on food safety
practices, said Alejandro Castillo, an associate professor of food
microbiology at Texas A&M University.
Agricultural experts say that spinach and lettuce growers should be
examining their fields for any visible feces, and destroying those crops
if they find it.
"Something tells me that somebody didn't do their job," Castillo said.
Brackett, of the FDA, said instituting a minimum distance between cattle
and farms "is something we will take into consideration as we go forward."
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