Remember the romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak that originated in Yuma, Arizona, and claimed five lives and sent 96 people to the hospital? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), canal water contaminated by cow manure was likely the cause.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has been investigating the outbreak along with the CDC and other state and local partners, recently posted an update on their website that delves into the cause of the contamination, reporting that nearby canal water tested positive for the same strain of E. coli as the outbreak and hypothesizing that a nearby facility containing up to 100,000 head of cattle may very well be the culprit.
Here's an excerpt from the update:
As FDA has previously stated, samples of canal water have tested positive for the outbreak strain of E. coli. FDA continues to consider that contaminated water coming into contact with produce, either through direct irrigation or other means, is a viable explanation for the pattern of contamination. But other hypotheses were discussed as well. FDA notes that the canal is close to a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), a facility with a large number of cattle on the premises. The CAFO can hold in excess of 100,000 head of cattle at any one time and the FDA traceback information showed a clustering of romaine lettuce farms nearby.
The news appeared on Twitter: