The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) needs a new motto: “Ignoring reality does not make reality go away.”

Clearly the NCBA, must have read a different report than I did and posted yesterday. The NCBA also must have missed this from this other FDA report a few years ago:

“We released our preliminary findings earlier this year that noted this investigation found the outbreak strain in a sample of cattle feces collected on a roadside about a mile upslope from a produce farm. This finding drew our attention once again to the role that cattle grazing on agricultural lands near leafy greens fields could have on increasing the risk of produce contamination, where contamination could be spread by water, wind or other means. In fact, the findings of foodborne illness outbreak investigations since 2013 suggest that a likely contributing factor for contamination of leafy greens has been the proximity of cattle. Cattle have been repeatedly demonstrated to be a persistent source of pathogenic E. coli, including E. coli O157:H7.”

According to the recent FDA Report on Yuma:

… there is a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) with more than 80,000 head of cattle and an associated compost operation in proximity to some of the produce production areas studied. 

Key Findings 

  • Airborne Pathogens: Airborne transmission of viable STEC was documented on numerous occasions at several locations adjacent to and at incremental distances from a nearby large livestock and composting operation (80,000+ cattle). In addition, air, water, and lettuce leaf microbiome analysis demonstrated deposition of dust from cattle pens to the nearby water and land, suggesting that dust from CAFOs may play a role in STEC transmission in this part of the region. These findings indicate that STEC can survive in the air and that dust can act as a transfer mechanism for both pathogens and indicator organisms (e.g. generic E. coli) from adjacent and nearby land to water, soil, and plant tissue. Additionally, distance played an important factor in the likelihood of STEC being detected in collected airborne dust, with percentage of positive samples declining steadily as air sampling moved in an incremental manner away from concentrated animal operations.
  • Water Quality: The research team repeatedly observed that generic E. coli concentrations and STEC prevalence and isolation frequency increased as irrigation canal water flowed past an adjacent livestock and compost operation. In addition, these changes in water quality occurred absent other explanations such as surface run-off or other direct contamination, which indicates that airborne disposition of dust from a nearby CAFO was potentially a factor in the contamination of the irrigation water. Similar findings were not observed from samples obtained concurrently from a different nearby irrigation canal that flows south of the CAFO and associated compost operation suggesting the important role of localized southerly winds in transferring CAFO-associated dust in northward  directions.

However, the NCBA chooses to ignore reality.

NCBA Responds to FDA’s Longitudinal Study on the Yuma Valley Leafy Greens Growing Region

JUNE 13, 2024

On June 5, 2024, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released preliminary findings from a multi-year study investigating the spread of bacteria to leafy greens being grown in Yuma County, Arizona.

The study was undertaken after a 2018 E. coli outbreak that was linked to romaine lettuce from the Yuma, AZ, growing area. The investigation into that outbreak found samples of canal water that tested positive for the outbreak strain of E. coli. However, that strain of E. coli was not found at a nearby cattle feeding operation and the investigation ultimately found “no obvious route for contamination” from the feeding operation. 

“Despite those 2018 investigative findings, we are concerned that some have erroneously interpreted the new FDA study as suggesting that the cattle industry is responsible for the outbreak, even though the scientific evidence does not support such a conclusion,” said NCBA CEO Colin Woodall. “In fact, FDA has expressly stated that the multi-year study did not identify the specific source and route of contamination that contributed to the 2018 outbreak.”

On the surface, cattle operations appear to be an easy target, but cattle and beef producers are already subject to countless local, state, and federal regulations that govern their operations to minimize the environmental impact and ensure that the food supply is safe. 

“The cattle and beef industry takes its responsibility for food and consumer safety seriously. Clearly, more scientific data is needed, but we must not allow ourselves to get ahead of science and play the blame game,” said Woodall. “Farmers and ranchers dedicate significant resources toward identifying and implementing practices that protect the environment, while also supporting food safety.”

I call “bullshit!”