Food Safety News - Iowa State University Extension

How Do Pathogens Get Into Produce?


Cookson Beecher

Leafy greens, lettuce, cantaloupes, mangoes and strawberries. These are just some of the foods that have sickened or even killed people when they were contaminated with foodborne pathogens such as E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella. Amidst the confusing swirl of information about these and other produce outbreaks, the question arises: Were some of these pathogens inside the produce? Could it be — in some cases, anyway — that the plant’s roots sucked the pathogens up out of the soil and transferred them through the plant into its edible parts? Could this happen when uncomposted manure is applied to a field, or when water contaminated with livestock waste is used to irrigate a crop, or when deer wandering through a field or geese flying over it leave behind some fecal droppings? Could some of the pathogens from the manure, polluted irrigation water, or droppings from wildlife soak down into the ground and become available to the roots of the plants?

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Food safety news is compiled from a number of sources and is provided only for informational purposes. Accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed by Iowa State University. Headlines are sometimes rewritten for clarity or to fit space. Original sources are indicated whenever possible and full stories may not be posted to honor the original author copyright.