This week, the FDA acknowledged it is investigating whether a nearby massive concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), or factory farm, could be the source of E. coli contamination of romaine lettuce earlier this year. The tainted lettuce resulted in hundreds of illnesses in 36 states and resulted in five deaths.
According to Food & Water Watch’s Factory Farm Map, an analysis of USDA data on factory farms, the density of cattle feedlots in the region where the tainted lettuce was grown is extreme. In Yuma county in 2012, cattle feedlots had an estimated average of over 67,000 head of cattle per facility. In the region implicated in the outbreak, samples of nearby irrigation canal water tested positive for the same strain of E. coli that caused the outbreak. The canal is close to a CAFO that can hold in excess of 100,000 head of cattle at any one time.