Irrigation water and produce safety

Back before there was youtube, we started videoing my friend, Jeff Wilson, about farming stuff.

boog.powell.mesquite.cookingWe knew irrigation water was an issue, but it was one most didn’t want to talk about.

Researchers at Cornell have reported that environmental (i.e., meteorological and landscape) factors and management practices can affect the prevalence of foodborne pathogens in produce production environments.

This study was conducted to determine the prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes, Listeria species (including L. monocytogenes), Salmonella, and Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in produce production environments and to identify environmental factors and management practices associated with their isolation.

Ten produce farms in New York State were sampled during a 6-week period in 2010, and 124 georeferenced samples (80 terrestrial, 33 water, and 11 fecal) were collected. L. monocytogenes, Listeria spp., Salmonella, and STEC were detected in 16, 44, 4, and 5% of terrestrial samples, 30, 58, 12, and 3% of water samples, and 45, 45, 27, and 9% of fecal samples, respectively. Environmental factors and management practices were evaluated for their association with terrestrial samples positive for L. monocytogenes or other Listeria species by univariate logistic regression; analysis was not conducted for Salmonella or STEC because the number of samples positive for these pathogens was low. Although univariate analysis identified associations between isolation of L. monocytogenes or Listeria spp. from terrestrial samples and various water-related factors (e.g., proximity to wetlands and precipitation), multivariate analysis revealed that only irrigation within 3 days of sample collection was significantly associated with isolation of L. monocytogenes (odds ratio = 39) and Listeria spp. (odds ratio = 5) from terrestrial samples.

These findings suggest that intervention at the irrigation level may reduce the risk of produce contamination.

Irrigation is significantly associated with an increased prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes in produce production environments in New York State

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 6, June 2015, pp. 1064-1243, pp. 1132-1141(10), DOI:

Weller, Daniel; Wiedmann, Martin; Strawn, Laura K.