Animal Welfare Advocate Links Lettuce E.coli Outbreaks to Animal Byproduct Fertilizers

romaine lettuce

Author of Farm to Fable and Animal Advocate Robert Grillo is warning people that the animal byproducts in soil used to grow lettuce might be linked to E. coli outbreaks affecting people in 19 states.

“In my book, Farm to Fable, I explore the conditions under which chickens and other animals are raised and how these conditions are incubators for disease outbreaks. Pathogens like E. coli originate in the guts of animals. As manure is added to soil, E. coli contaminates soil and can easily spread to growing vegetables like lettuce,” said Grillo. “Additionally, farmers often use a wide range of animal byproducts and slaughterhouse waste such as bone meal or blood meal as fertilizers, leading to the possible further spread of E. coli and other bacteria.”

Grillo reports there are different ways soil is fertilized, as exposed in movies like Food Inc. and Fast Food Nation. Large animal farms have enormous reservoirs of animal waste which they spray on crops as fertilizer. To get a sense of just how much excrement this industry produces, consider that, at any given time, there are an estimated 32 farmed animals for every US citizen being raised for slaughter.

According to PennState Exentsion’s website (, “raw and composted animal manure is a valuable soil conditioner and source of nutrients. However, the shorter the time between raw manure application and harvest, the greater the risk of pathogens being present in the soil at the time of harvest.”

A study conducted in Africa and published online in 2016 on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website ( confirms contamination of vegetables by fecal bacteria is mainly due to the use of poultry manure.

“New farming practices use green manure as a replacement for animal manure and animal byproducts,” said Grillo. “Green manure is much safer, more environmentally friendly and provides more stable and long-term fertilization.”

Robert Grillo is a renowned animal advocate and founder and director of Free from Harm, a nonprofit animal rights organization. Grillo started Free from Harm after working in marketing for a variety of restaurants and food clients. After learning how chickens, turkeys, cows, fish and other farmed animals are raised and slaughtered for food, Grillo has devoted his work to ensuring people understand how societal impressions of farmed animals negatively affect our health, dietary habits, environment and more. Learn more about Grillo at

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