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Science-based Evaluation of Regional Risks for Salmonella Contamination of Irrigation Water at Mixed Produce Farms in the Suwannee River Watershed

Wright, Anita; Danyluk, Michelle
University of Florida
Start date
End date
Outbreaks of human illness associated with produce have resulted in questions about the safety of the water used for irrigating these products. We have assembled an experienced team from the University of Georgia at Tifton and the University of Florida to address the water quality of vegetable irrigation ponds in the Suwannee River watershed.

Irrigation water quality standards are not currently regulated or determined by scientifically based metrics. Coliform bacteria are widely used as indicators of fecal contamination, but their validity as indicators of bacterial pathogens is questionable.

We propose to investigate the relationship between the occurrence and distribution of these indicator bacteria with that of a specific pathogen, namely Salmonella enterica. Growers in this principal produce production area of the United States have agreed to allow periodic collection of water samples from irrigation ponds to provide preliminary data and validate methodologies.

Proposed research will systematically examine bacteria in and around 10 irrigation pond sites for a two-year period under a variety of environmental conditions.

This research will identify management practices, environmental parameters, and locale characteristics associated with increased risk of pathogen contamination by irrigation water and will provide a research-based comparison of indicator organisms and Salmonella in a major fruit and vegetable growing area.

Funding Source
Center for Produce Safety
Project source
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Project number
Sanitation and Quality Standards