Cancel OK

FDA-led partnership to continue Desert Food Safety Coalition

desert food safety coalition

June 5, 2024 – Yuma, Arizona:  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration updated its website to share initial findings from a multi-year environmental study within the Southwest growing region conducted in partnership with the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, the Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District, and in conjunction with the Arizona Department of Agriculture and members of the leafy greens industry.

The study sought to better understand the ecology of human pathogens in the environment in the Southwest agricultural region, particularly how pathogens survive, move, and possibly contaminate produce prior to harvest. 

The research team is continuing to analyze data from this study, however preliminary findings have been updated on the longitudinal study webpage and are summarized within the full announcement which can be found here, FDA and Partners in the Southwest Growing Region Share Findings from Multi-year Environmental Study.

This effort was initiated in 2019 following an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce from the southwest growing region. From May 2019 through April 2024, environmental samples were collected from irrigation and other surface waters, soil, sediment, air/dust, animal fecal material, wildlife scat, plant tissue, and other sources across approximately a 54-mile area within the Southwest growing region. 

The Southwest agricultural community would like to express our appreciation and admiration for the FDA-CFSAN research team.  These top-notch scientists were central to the development and execution of this study which represents one of the largest environmental microbiology research efforts to date.

The preliminary results of this study stress the interconnectedness between people, animals and the environment.  With over 100 sampling events at 55 sites totaling greater than 5000 analyses the research team observed pathogen variability over time in the region with potential influencing factors such as seasonality, weather conditions, and animal activities on adjacent and nearby land.

The Industry Advisory Group closely involved with the initial research effort aims to reconvene under the Desert Food Safety Coalition, fostering ongoing collaboration among stakeholders including fresh produce growers, livestock managers/producers, academia, extension, retailers and federal, state, and local government partners to implement future food safety practices informed by the key findings of the research to benefit both animal and crop producers alike. 

While noteworthy progress has been made, there remains much to be done to develop regionally appropriate food safety solutions that involve all stakeholders across the agricultural industry.  Desert Food Safety Coalition members share a common commitment to public health through research, science, and continuous improvement to promote science-informed food safety decision making and practices.

Desert Food Safety Coalition Members

Contact: April Ward
Phone: 916-947-0751