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Predicting E. coli Outbreaks in Leafy Greens

Foodborne illness outbreaks due to Escherichia coli O157:H7 (EcO157) contamination not only cause harm to consumers but may also result in nationwide recalls for food suppliers. Predicting contamination in the field could reduce human illness and limit the amount of lettuce that must be thrown away. 

ARS researchers in Albany, CA, and Cleveland State University developed a weather data model to predict EcO157 contamination trends in lettuce. The model accurately predicted EcO157 survival rates on young romaine lettuce plants that had been measured in previous field experiments in Salinas, CA the lettuce-growing capital of the world. 

Food safety regulatory agencies can use this user-friendly model to develop a weather-based risk assessment tool for the lettuce industry thereby reducing waste due to crop contamination. Learn more about this research.