Yesterday, the USDA announced that it has awarded $5.5 million to researchers who are working to determine the risk factors and prevention measures for E. coli O157:H7 contamination in fresh produce.

USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service are providing the funding to ARS researcher Rob Mandrell and his collaborators at the University of California to continue their research in the Central Valley of California. Over the next three years ARS will contribute $5 million and CSREES will contribute $470,999. In 2006, CSREES awarded Mandrell and colleague Robert Atwill at University of California-Davis $1.2 million to do research in the Salinas Valley.

Mandrell will address where E. coli O157:H7 originates, how it survives on the plant, and what factors lead to an increase in produce-related outbreaks. Potential risk factors include animals, land practices, packing and processing processes and wildlife.

Additionally, the project will feature workshops and publications to educate the animal operators, natural resource managers and the public about animal diseases that can be transferred to humans, how animal waste can contaminate water sources, and beneficial management practices for maintaining and improving water runoff quality.