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NCBA Responds to FDA’s Longitudinal Study on the Yuma Valley Leafy Greens Growing Region

On June 5, 2024, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released preliminary findings from a multi-year study investigating the spread of bacteria to leafy greens being grown in Yuma County, Arizona.

The study was undertaken after a 2018 E. coli outbreak that was linked to romaine lettuce from the Yuma, AZ, growing area. The investigation into that outbreak found samples of canal water that tested positive for the outbreak strain of E. coli.  However, that strain of E. coli was not found at a nearby cattle feeding operation and the investigation ultimately found “no obvious route for contamination” from the feeding operation.

“Despite those 2018 investigative findings, we are concerned that some have erroneously interpreted the new FDA study as suggesting that the cattle industry is responsible for the outbreak, even though the scientific evidence does not support such a conclusion,” said NCBA CEO Colin Woodall. “In fact, FDA has expressly stated that the multi-year study did not identify the specific source and route of contamination that contributed to the 2018 outbreak.”

On the surface, cattle operations appear to be an easy target, but cattle and beef producers are already subject to countless local, state, and federal regulations that govern their operations to minimize the environmental impact and ensure that the food supply is safe.

“The cattle and beef industry takes its responsibility for food and consumer safety seriously. Clearly, more scientific data is needed, but we must not allow ourselves to get ahead of science and play the blame game,” said Woodall. “Farmers and ranchers dedicate significant resources toward identifying and implementing practices that protect the environment, while also supporting food safety.”

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