With 29 confirmed and probable cases of E. coli O145 infection linked to Freshway brand romaine lettuce, investigators continue their search to confirm the lettuce’s place of origin. A possible answer is the farms in Yuma, Arizona: "A potential location has been identified in Yuma," Kurt Nolte, Yuma County Cooperative Extension director and agriculture agent, said Friday.
The long history connecting leafy greens to outbreaks of pathogenic E. coli is well documented. The potential for contamination of lettuce from the Yuma area was investigated previously. At a conference in November, 2006, following on the heels of the Dole spinach outbreak, Jorge M. Fonseca, of the University of Arizona, Yuma Agricultural Center, Department of Plant Sciences, gave this informative presentation.
Among the issues looked at- soil quality; water source; wildlife intrusion; and proximity to cattle farms. Mr. Fonseca noted that very few animals were noted in Yuma lettuce fields, with the exception of migratory birds. It was also reported that the farms draw their water from the Colorado River, almost exclusively. At the time of the report cattle farming in the area was apparently limited, although domestic cattle could be found in the area.