How Does E. coli Get Into Produce?

By: Alice Vo Edwards The recent E. coli outbreak linked with romaine lettuce has many people wondering: how does E. coli get into produce? E. coli is a bacteria that people and animals carry and excrete in their feces. Restaurant-related outbreaks of E. coli are often linked, for example, to poor handwashing practices. In the case of E. coli and produce, the progression of the E. coli can be a bit more confusing to follow. Craig Hedberg, the Director of the Minnesota Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence and an experienced environmental health epidemiologist studying foodborne illnesses discusses how E. coli can be carried from livestock to table. E. coli lives within the digestive tracts of livestock such as cows and sheep, as well as people. Livestock manure or human fecal matter can contain E. coli and can carry it across distances on wet or dry fecal matter. In communities where animal farms are situated nearby produce farms, it is possible for E. coli to travel from…

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