Jan. 1, 2012 - Dec. 31, 2013Award Number
/George Vellidis, Ph.D.
University of Georgia
Irrigation water has been linked to outbreaks of human foodborne illness and death associated with bacterial contamination of produce. In 2010, the FDAset forth a rule to allow for inspections of produce production systems, minimal standards to be derived for on-farm processes and resources such as quality of irrigation water. The rule also mandated documentation of actions conducted to minimize the risks of produce contamination. Requirements to document the quality of water are based on indicator bacteria and currently vary from no mandate for testing irrigation water quality to a presence/absence test to a single enumerated test to a 5-day geometric mean. There are no science-based metrics comparing the utility of these methods for detecting pathogenic bacteria in irrigation water sources. The proposed research will provide guidance for growers on water sampling methods to maximize the ability to detect bacterial contamination in surface water irrigation sources. In addition, the water sampling protocol developed in this study will provide a science-based method for collecting samples that can be documented as part of a water quality program to minimize risks of produce contamination.