Impacts of Climate and Management Variables on the Contamination of Preharvest Leafy Greens with Escherichia coli

Cheng Liu*, Nynke Hofstra, Eelco Franz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The observed seasonality of foodborne disease suggests that climatic conditions play a role and that changes in the climate may affect the presence of pathogens. However, it is hard to determine whether this effect is direct or whether it works indirectly through other factors, such as farm management. This study aimed to identify the climate and management variables that are associated with the contamination (presence and concentration) of leafy green vegetables with E. coli. This study used data about E. coli contamination from 562 leafy green vegetables (lettuce and spinach) samples taken between 2011 and 2013 from 23 open-ield farms in Belgium, Brazil, Egypt, Norway, and Spain. Mixed-effect logistic and linear regression models were used to study the statistical relationship between the dependent and independent variables. Climate variables and agricultural management practices together had a systematic influence on E. coli presence and concentration. The variables important for E. coli presence included the minimum temperature of the sampling day (odds ratio =1.47), region, and application of inorganic fertilizer. The variables important for concentration (R2 = 0.75) were the maximum temperature during the 3 days before sampling and the region. Temperature had a stronger influence (had a significant parameter estimate and the highest R2) than did management practices on E. coli presence and concentration. Region was a variable that masked many management variables, including rainwater, surface water, manure, inorganic fertilizer, and spray irrigation. Climate variables had a positive relationship with E. coli presence and concentration. Temperature, irrigation water type, fertilizer type, and irrigation method should be systematically considered in future studies of fresh produce safety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-29
JournalJournal of Food Protection
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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