Recent American E. coli outbreak linked to cattle

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Friday, October 13, 2006

The recent E. coli outbreak that killed three people and sickened nearly 200 in the United States and Canada has been linked to cattle. The outbreak affected people who ate contaminated bagged spinach. Shortly after the outbreak began, the contaminated spinach had been traced to the Salinas Valley region of California. Now, health officials say the contamination came from cattle manure.

Cow manure was the source of the E. coli in the recent outbreak.

The infected cattle manure was found on a ranch in Salinas Valley that is adjacent to the field that produced contaminated spinach. How precisely the infection was transported from the ranch to the spinach field is still unknown. Dr. Kevin Reilly of the California Department of Health Services said that "we don't know if wild swine are playing a role or not, but we do know that on this particular ranch, there is a very large population of wild boar, and we have witnessed on this site that they have torn through fencing and under fencing and have the ability to access the field". The bacteria could have been carried by wild animals from the cattle ranch to the spinach field.

Joan Rose, a microbiologist and food safety expert at Michigan State University, commented that it is not surprising that cattle manure was the source of the infection. "If you start to look at the pathogen levels even in untreated sewage, it's minor compared to animal waste", she said.