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Title: From the ground up: groundwater, surface water runoff, and air as pathogen routes for food contamination

item Borchardt, Mark

Submitted to: Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/13/2014
Publication Date: 1/15/2014
Citation: Borchardt, M.A. 2014. From the ground up: groundwater, surface water runoff, and air as pathogen routes for food contamination. Symposium Proceedings. 53:125.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Foodborne infectious disease transmission of 31 pathogen types is estimated to account for 9.4 million illnesses, 56,000 hospitalizations, and 1,300 deaths in the United States annually (Scallan et al. 2011). The economic costs from foodborne illness in the United States are more than $50 billion per year (Scharff 2012). The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 recognizes agricultural water is a source of pathogen contamination of fresh produce and monitoring strategies are being proposed to assess the sanitary quality of water used for food production and processing. Nonetheless, one lesson learned from foodborne outbreaks the past several years is that the events and pathogen movement routes leading to contamination are often surprising. Food producers need to be constantly vigilant for previously unanticipated contamination routes. This presentation tells three stories about three studies, highlighting the potential for human pathogens to travel unusual routes and end up in surprising places. Insofar as these routes and places intersect with food, foodborne illness can result. Attendees are reminded of three summary points: Groundwater – Contrary to conventional wisdom, municipal drinking water from non-disinfected groundwater sources is not pathogen-free and cannot be assumed to be sufficiently sanitary for food processing. Surface Runoff – Pathogen types and concentrations are highly variable in runoff from manure-applied fields, and pathogen genomes in these fields can survive for many months. Air – During spray irrigation of dairy manure, under cool windy conditions, pathogens can be detected at distances greater than 500 feet downwind of the irrigation site. However, under hot, sunny, low-wind conditions, pathogen detections downwind are sporadic.