Farmers Hunt Wildlife to Keep Greens Clean

E. coli scare prompts extreme measures in 'America's Salad Bowl'
By Ambreen Ali,  Newser User
Posted Sep 2, 2008 12:21 PM CDT
An auditor with the California Department of Food and Agriculture monitors food safety conditions during harvesting of romaine lettuce in Salinas, Calif.   (AP Photo)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – To please cautious companies, farmers have turned hunters in California's Salinas River Valley, where 60% of the nation's lettuce grows. They’re stalking wild pigs, poisoning ponds and erecting fences—disrupting wildlife and destroying habitats in the process—to avoid another E. coli contamination, the AP reports. But some question the drastic steps, given limited evidence that wildlife caused previous outbreaks.

New laws require growers to keep a buffer zone between crop fields and grazing land for cattle, known carriers of E. coli, but there’s no such requirement with wildlife. "I think there's a little brinksmanship going on” for a sales advantage, a grower speculates. But industry reps say customers are glad companies are going above and beyond requirements to protect the greens.