USDA wants to use drones to keep E. coli out of our food supply

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When the new Food Safety Modernization Act became law in 2011, it required farmers to test for E. coli and other bacteria. However, the law does not give them any direction on how to do so….The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service has been researching whether drones can be used to examine irrigation ponds, in the hopes of coming up with a new standard for ensuring that water is safe to use on crops.

The ARS is exploring whether drones can be used to provide aerial coverage of irrigation ponds to find indicators of bacteria like E. coli. The service is trying to find a relationship between E. coli and the algae and other content in ponds, according to Jaclyn Smith, a biological technician with ARS. Drones can deliver more accurate and higher-resolution images of ponds than satellites, says Billie Griffith, a biological technician and drone pilot with ARS. Equipped with infrared cameras and cameras that capture different wavelengths of light, drones can detect higher concentrations of bacteria.

Related article:  Viewpoint: 7-year food fraud scheme exposes flawed oversight of organic farming

Farmers need to sample their irrigation water and demonstrate that it is safe to put onto crops….[I]t is important to sample the water because bacteria in water can filter into the plant matter and cause illnesses….The recent E.coli outbreaks that affected romaine lettuce indicate that the threat….to public health is not going away.

Read full, original article: USDA Explores Whether Drones Can Be Used to Test for E. coli in Irrigation Ponds

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