Outbreaks of E. coli that sickened almost 200 people in California late last year probably came from cattle grazing close to the farms that grew the tainted romaine lettuce. 

The Associated Press says those findings came from a report released late last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

Cow feces, which can contain the bacteria, is considered by the FDA as “the most likely contributing factor” to three outbreaks of the food-borne illness that traced to fields in the Salinas Valley of California. 

The outbreaks happened last November and December and affected people in at least 16 states as well as Canada. 

No deaths were reported. 

Investigators concluded that the illness centered on ranches and fields owned by the same grower that was located downslope from the public land that cattle had grazed on. 

The FDA says it couldn’t definitively identify a route of contamination for the three 2019 outbreaks, but it did say the possibilities included water runoff from the grazing area, wind-blown material, or animals or vehicles tracking it out to fields in the area. 

The report’s executive summary says, “Agricultural water sources used to grow the romaine were also possible routes of contamination.”