E. Coli Outbreak Linked to Romaine Lettuce

by in Aquaponics, Environmental News November 28, 2018

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced the presence of an E. coli outbreak. It is advising consumers to not eat romaine lettuce until more details about the outbreak are discovered.

There has been much talk on the recent E. coli outbreak involving romaine lettuce. The CDC instructed stores and restaurants to dispose of romaine lettuce on hand, and people were warned to avoid the vegetable. The CDC is still working to confirm the correct identification of the infected region that spread the bacteria. They have selected farms to produce clean harvests to restock stores and restaurants across the country.

To prevent future E. coli outbreaks and limit the amount of wasted produce from these recalls, it is important to understand how these outbreaks occur in traditional farming. What causes E. coli to contaminate crops? Can anything be done to mitigate these risks? What farming patterns need to change to protect consumers? Aquaponics is one potential solution to this problem, as it is a contained and self-sufficient farming method.

Recent E. coli outbreak:

Two days before Thanksgiving, the CDC warned Americans to not consume any romaine lettuce due to an E. coli outbreak linked to the vegetable. There have been 43 reported cases across 12 states. It is predicted that this outbreak originated from lettuce grown in California, based off of harvest dates and dates of reported sickness. California also had the highest number of reported cases.

E. coli is a pathogen that most commonly comes from wildlife and cattle feces. The bacteria causes diarrhea, vomiting, and a fever when consumed. Sickness from E. coli typically lasts from five to seven days. It can vary in severity from mild to life threatening with the worst cases causing Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, which leads to kidney failure.

No warnings have been lifted by the CDC, so continue to avoid romaine lettuce! The CDC and the FDA are still investigating the exact source of the contaminated crops. They are also working to produce orders from other states, including Arizona and Florida, to replenish the lettuce stock across the country.

The FDA announced a new system for labeling crops. This will help easily identify their origin, making it easier for consumers to avoid contaminated food. The growers have no government oversight, and operate simply by following industry guidelines. Developing a thorough labeling system could help prevent large-scale outbreaks as well as reduce the need for country wide recalls.

How do E. coli outbreaks happen?

There are several ways that E. coli can contaminate crops. The bacteria is carried by wildlife and cattle, who do not fall sick from the pathogen. Some specific animals that carry E. coli include cows, deer, chicken, sheep, and pigs. Crops can become contaminated when wildlife carrying the pathogen intrudes upon the growing area or through dirty irrigation water. For large traditional farms that are supported by irrigation systems, this type of risk is hard to avoid unless processes are highly regulated. One contaminated nearby water source can result the harmful bacteria reaching an entire harvest. These risks make growing your own greens much safer. Individuals who do not purchase produce grown in large scale farms have a much lower chance of being affected by this problem.

Aquaponics can help:

Aquaponic systems are not connected to external water sources, such as runoff or irrigation water. Instead, they use water from the connected fish tank to water the attached plants. This eliminates the chance of water contamination by harmful bacteria such as E. coli. They are also contained units, and do not have wildlife near the crops during any part of the growing or harvesting process. Aquaponics systems can grow romaine lettuce and other leafy greens that are normally at risk of E. coli contamination. Not only is this method safer, but it also produces larger yields with quicker growth rates! Aquaponics is the future solution to this problem and can easily provide fresh and safe food to individuals anywhere.

For more information:

Stay updated on the E. coli news and the status of warnings by visiting the CDC website. Also be sure to check out the Seventh Generation Solutions aquaponics page for more information on the aquaponic cycle and its benefits! Understanding where our food comes from and how it is regulated is an important first step to developing safe, clean food sources industry-wide.

2 Comments
  1. Hello! I would like to ask if your aquaponics systems are the same concept as they teach in school for kids?

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