How Now, Cow Brown?

March 10, 2020

Why the FDA will have to pay attention to poop.

At a food safety conference last year, I listened to a presentation by a former FDA official about contamination. What stuck in my mind was a photo he took in Yuma, Ariz., one of the centers of an outbreak of E. coli in romaine lettuce. The photo was of a field of lettuce, located right next to a cattle feedlot. Looming overhead was a storage tank for irrigation water.

He said, in effect, Anyone see anything wrong with this picture? He didn’t need to draw us a map. The overwhelming source of pathogenic E. coli is cattle manure. And contaminated manure is what led to the problem in Yuma.

This came back to me when I posted a news item about a new FDA initiative to fight contamination in leafy greens. One of the goals will be to advance safer agricultural procedures. A good start would be taking a look at growing food, especially food that will never be cooked, next door to large concentrations of cattle.

There’s something you shouldn’t do where you eat. Let’s make sure it doesn’t get done near places where a lot of people eat from.