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Large U.S. cattle farm may have caused romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak

Staff Writer |
This spring's large E. coli outbreak caused by tainted romaine lettuce may have been caused by a large industrial farm.

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That's according to a new Food and Drug Administration hypothesis.

A concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, is near a canal whose water came in contact with the affected romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region, the FDA said.

The water may have been used for irrigation, and sample testing revealed in June that it was tainted with E. coli O157:H7 that had the same genetic fingerprint as the outbreak strain.

This was the largest multi-state E. coli outbreak in the U.S. in a dozen years. The contaminated lettuce sickened 210 people in 36 states and killed five. Ninety-six victims landed in the hospital, 27 of whom developed kidney failure.

"The CAFO can hold in excess of 100,000 head of cattle at any one time, and the FDA traceback information showed a clustering of romaine lettuce farms nearby," the federal government said.

"Our experts continue to work on examining potential links between the CAFO, adjacent water and geologic and other factors that may explain the contamination and its relationship to the outbreak."

The name and the operator of the CAFO the FDA is investigating hasn't been released.


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