U.S.D.A. to dedicate $5.5 million to produce research

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture will spend nearly $5.5 million to support collaborative research to identify risk factors and preventive measures for E. coli O157:H7 contamination in fresh produce.

"This research will help producers identify the sources of E. coli O157:H7 and ways to avoid contamination," Mr. Johanns said. "Developing new research and prevention tactics for the grower will contribute to assuring produce safety for consumers."

As part of the effort, Mr. Johanns said the Agricultural Research Service (A.R.S.) and Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (C.S.R.E.S.) of the U.S.D.A. will provide $5 million and $470,999, respectively, in funding to A.R.S. researcher Rob Mandrell and his collaborators at the University of California to continue research during the next three years in the Central Valley of California.

The researchers will determine where E. coli O157:H7 originates, how it survives on the plant, and what factors lead to an increase in produce-related outbreaks. Potential risk factors include animals, land practices, packing and processing processes and wildlife.

Additionally, the U.S.D.A. said the project will feature workshops and publications to educate the animal operators, natural resource managers and the public about animal diseases that may be transferred to humans, how animal waste may contaminate water sources, and beneficial management practices for maintaining and improving water runoff quality.

This is not the first time a U.S.D.A. agency has provided funding to Mr. Mandrell. In 2006, C.S.R.E.S. awarded Mr. Mandrell and colleague Robert Atwill at the University of California-Davis $1.2 million to conduct research in the Salinas Valley.

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