E. Coli is Never from Plants, (Originally)

Remember that awful E. coli outbreak from romaine lettuce grown in Arizona last March? 200 people got sick. I bet you were thinking, oh shoot, now I have to worry about lettuce making me sick. And maybe you stopped buying romaine lettuce. In fact, large quantities were destroyed before it got to consumers.

And do you remember that E. coli outbreak from leafy greens in 2017? …And alfalfa sprouts in 2016? Same thing: people stopped buying leafy greens. Those salad greens were thrown out and destroyed, like the romaine, which is a tragic waste of nourishment for humans.

E. coli bacteria comes from the intestines of animals, particularly ruminant animals, (think livestock), and gets in our freshwater systems from their manure. It doesn’t come from produce. It comes from bacteria inside animal intestines, and the only way it gets into plants is from manure contaminating water that irrigates plants. It is more commonly found in uncooked animal products, including raw milk, meat and cheese.

Understand that with most farming in the U.S., manure from hundreds to thousands of animals is stored in huge lagoons or mountains. There is nowhere for runoff from these manure stockpiles to go but into the ground water, contaminating water systems that often irrigate crops. Researchers have traced the E. coli that contaminated the Arizona romaine to a large feedlot nearby.

So the next time you hear of an E. coli outbreak in some produce, don’t blame the plant. It is likely from a feedlot that has mountains of manure with toxins running into our water systems–another big reason to limit our animal food intake and rid our world of piles of manure.


Investigators Track Contaminated Lettuce Outbreak To A Cattle Feedlot. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/08/29/642646707/investigators-track-contaminated-lettuce-outbreak-to-a-cattle-feedlot

E. Coli. https://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/ecoli/index.html

E. Coli Outbreaks. https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/outbreaks.html