Reducing risks from produce grown with compost

By Peter Kent

Clemson scientists working in the labOrganic and commercial produce growers sometimes use animal manure or compost as fertilizer and soil enrichment. This reduces the use of chemicals but can increase the risk of food-borne illnesses from salmonella and E. coli bacteria that occur naturally in manure.

That risk is greater in crops such as lettuce, spinach, and cantaloupe. Bacteria can last more than a year under the right conditions; but Clemson research found that many are easily destroyed by heat.

“Heat generated by microbial activities during composting can lower bacterial counts in compost, but the temperature and duration must be sufficient,” said food safety scientist Xiuping Jiang.

Her research team is seeking to identify how diseasecausing organisms in compost react to heat, and to develop methods to detect and control these organisms in manurebased compost. This research is funded by a grant from the University of California-Davis.

For information: Xiuping Jiang, 864-656-6932, xiuping@