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Report shows reasons for concern about animal operations near produce

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In a new report the FDA continues to express concerns about farm animal operations close by and adjacent to produce growing fields, specifically peach orchards this time.

The report, released June 11, outlines data from an investigation into a 2020 Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak linked to whole fresh peaches that sickened 101 people across 17 states, including 28 who had to be admitted to hospitals. This appears to be the first time a Salmonella outbreak has been linked to peaches, according to federal health officials.

Previous investigations by state and federal officials have found links between animal operations and lettuce growing fields that produced romaine that was related to E. Coli outbreaks in recent years.

In the report on test samples collected in peach orchards and an adjacent chicken operation the Food and Drug Administration connected the dots between produce pathogens and poultry.

“Investigators conducted over 700 tests on environmental, peach, and peach tree leaf samples.  While no test results matched the 2020 outbreak strain, four tests conducted on peach and peach tree leaf samples collected from an orchard adjacent to a poultry operation yielded positives for Salmonella Alachua which were further linked via whole genome sequencing (WGS) to 2019 and 2020 chicken isolates,” according to the FDA report.

“This finding prompted a follow-up investigation more closely focused on growing areas and a voluntary recall by the firm (Prima Wawona), preventing the tested, contaminated product from reaching the market. During the follow-up investigation, two tests of peach tree leaf samples collected from orchards adjacent to a cattle feedlot yielded positives for Salmonella Montevideo that were genetically similar via WGS to 2018-2020 beef and cattle isolates.

“. . . the investigational findings reinforce the FDA’s concern about the potential impact that adjacent land uses can have on the safety of produce.”

The FDA report says the agency views the implementation of appropriate science- and risk-based measures to reduce the potential for contamination of peaches and other produce as the most effective and practicable means to improve the safety of fresh produce, especially when measures are tailored to the specific practices and conditions on individual farms. 

In its report the FDA encourages all growers to be cognizant of and assess risks that may be posed by adjacent and nearby land uses, including for the potential impact of dust exposure. 

“The FDA also recognizes the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment when it comes to public health outcomes, and we encourage collaboration among various groups in the broader agricultural community — e.g., produce growers, those managing animal operations, state and federal government agencies, and academia — to address this issue,” the agency report states.

Traceback evidence informed and helped to prioritize two subsequent investigations of peach packing/holding operations and peach orchards in Cutler, Kerman, and Sanger, CA. Prima Wawona cooperated with FDA throughout the investigation and is continuing to engage with FDA on the agency’s findings and recommendations.

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