Landscape and meteorological factors affecting prevalence of three food-borne pathogens in fruit and vegetable farms

Laura K. Strawn, Esther D. Fortes, Elizabeth A. Bihn, Kendra K. Nightingale, Yrjö T. Gröhn, Randy W. Worobo, Martin Wiedmann, Peter W. Bergholz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


Produce-related outbreaks have been traced back to the preharvest environment. A longitudinal study was conducted on five farms in New York State to characterize the prevalence, persistence, and diversity of food-borne pathogens in fresh produce fields and to determine landscape and meteorological factors that predict their presence. Produce fields were sampled four times per year for 2 years. A total of 588 samples were analyzed for Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, and Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC). The prevalence measures of L. monocytogenes, Salmonella, and STEC were 15.0, 4.6, and 2.7%, respectively. L. monocytogenes and Salmonella were detected more frequently in water samples, while STEC was detected with equal frequency across all sample types (soil, water, feces, and drag swabs). L. monocytogenes sigB gene allelic types 57, 58, and 61 and Salmonella enterica serovar Cerro were repeatedly isolated from water samples. Soil available water storage (AWS), temperature, and proximity to three land cover classes (water, roads and urban development, and pasture/hay grass) influenced the likelihood of detecting L. monocytogenes. Drainage class, AWS, and precipitation were identified as important factors in Salmonella detection. This information was used in a geographic information system framework to hypothesize locations of environmental reservoirs where the prevalence of food-borne pathogens may be elevated. The map indicated that not all croplands are equally likely to contain environmental reservoirs of L. monocytogenes. These findings advance recommendations to minimize the risk of preharvest contamination by enhancing models of the environmental constraints on the survival and persistence of food-borne pathogens in fields.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)588-600
Number of pages13
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2013


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