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FDA Expands Water Testing Options for Growers

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The FDA has recently announced further flexibility for growers with respect to testing the agricultural water used for postharvest washing and cooling, hand washing, sanitizing food contact surfaces, and making ice. Water used for these purposes as described in §112.44(a) must have no detectable generic E. coli in 100 mL.  With this announcement, FDA is recognizing a select number of less expensive water tests which determine presence or absence of E. coli as opposed to counting how many E. coli are present.

The FDA is still considering changing their approach for testing water used in preharvest activities like irrigation and cooling, so stay tuned for more news on that front as it becomes available.

If you’re looking for a lab to conduct water tests, check out the WSU food safety site interactive water testing map, which shows where labs are located who can conduct quantifiable water tests for preharvest agricultural water and presence/absence tests for postharvest and hand washing.

The newly approved presence/absence tests are:

  • TECTATMEC/TC medium and the TECTATM Instrument: A Presence/Absence Method for the Simultaneous Detection of Total Coliforms and Escherichia coli ( coli) in Drinking Water. (2014).
  • Modified ColitagTMTest Method for the Simultaneous Detection of  coli and other Total Coliforms in Water. ATP D05-0035. (2009).
  • IDEXX Colilert Test Kit
  • IDEXX Colilert-18 Test Kit
  • IDEXX Colisure Test Kit
  • E*Colite Bag or Vial Test for Total Coliforms and  coliin Potable Water. Charm Sciences, Inc.
  • 101298 Readycult Coliforms 100. EMD Millipore (division of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany)

If you have questions, please contact Faith Critzer ( or 509-786-9203)


Faith Critzer

Associate Professor & Produce Safety Extension Specialist

Washington State University



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