Most of the time when we’re writing about, reading about, or representing people for illnesses suffered in an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak related to produce, we’re looking at things retrospectively. An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 happened, we know it was linked to lettuce, spinach, or some other type of fresh, raw produce, but we are sometimes left digging for answers as to how the E. coli got onto (or even into) the lettuce or spinach leaves.
For once, we may have a glimpse, albeit a narrow one, of how these lettuce and spinach E. coli outbreaks actually get started. The attached is an "incident alert" from the Food Safety and Defense organization. It involves a modern day Bo Peep who apparently forgot what fences mean (actually, it’s a little unclear who owned the property). The sheepherders allowed their herd to invade a carrot growing field where the carrot behemoth Grimmway was actively growing carrots.
Sounds innocent enough, right? I mean, they’re just sheep, and they just wanted to eat a few carrots. Probably just the tops of the carrots that nobody eats anyways.
Well, sheep are ruminant animals well-known to harbor E. coli O157:H7, and other pathogenic bacteria, in their gastrointestinal tracts. I know nothing about any "problems" (i.e. linked e. coli illnesses) . . . yet. Hey, just an aside here, but what’s up with California lettuce? Anybody know anything that we don’t?