E. coli Outbreak Spreads to Two More States; Another Distributor Recalls Spinach

To date, 146 cases of illness due to E. coli infection have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including 23 cases of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), 76 hospitalizations, and one death. Illnesses continue to be reported to CDC. This is considered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be an ongoing investigation.

Arizona and Colorado have just been added to the list of states with confirmed cases.  There are now 23 affected states:  Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

The New Mexico Department of Health announced today that it has linked a sample from a package of spinach with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157. The spinach was eaten by one of New Mexico's patients before becoming sick. DNA fingerprinting tests determined that the strain from the spinach matches the strain from patients in the outbreak. The package of spinach that tested positive was "Dole Baby Spinach, Best if Used by August 30."

The FDA advises consumers to not eat fresh spinach or products that contain fresh spinach until further notice. Fresh spinach includes bagged spinach, spinach in a clamshell, and loose spinach purchased from retail establishments such as supermarkets, restaurants and farmers' markets. At this time, the FDA has no evidence that frozen spinach, canned spinach, and spinach included in pre-made meals manufactured by food companies are affected. These products are safe to eat.

If individuals believe they may have experienced symptoms of illness after consuming fresh spinach or fresh spinach-containing products, FDA recommends that they seek medical advice.

On Sept. 19, 2006, RLB Food Distributors, L.P. of West Caldwell, N.J., initiated a voluntary recall of certain salad products that may contain spinach with an Enjoy Thru date of 9/20/06.  The products recalled by RLB are:

Balducci's Mesclun Mix 5 oz.

Balducci's Organic Baby Spinach 5 oz.

Balducci's Mixed Greens 5 oz.

FreshPro Mesclun Mix 5 oz.

FreshPro Organic Baby Spinach 5 oz.

FreshPro Mixed Greens 5 oz.

FreshPro Salad Mix with Italian Dressing 4.75 oz.

FreshPro Salad Mix with Ranch Dressing 5.25 oz

On Sept. 17, 2006, River Ranch, of Salinas, Calif., announced a voluntary recall of packages of spring mix containing spinach. River Ranch obtained bulk spring mix containing spinach from Natural Selections. The following brands are involved: Fresh N' Easy Spring Mix and Hy-Vee Spring mix containing baby spinach, distributed to retailers in Texas, Iowa and New Mexico. Product was packed in 5 oz. bags and 5 oz. plastic trays. Products that do not contain spinach are not part of this recall.

On Sept. 15, 2006, Natural Selection Foods, LLC, of San Juan Bautista, Calif., announced a voluntary recall of all products containing spinach in all brands they pack with "Best if Used by Dates" of August 17, 2006 through October 1, 2006. These products include spinach and any salad with spinach in a blend, both retail and food service products. Products that do not contain spinach are not part of this recall. Natural Selection Foods, LLC brands include: Natural Selection Foods, Pride of San Juan, Earthbound Farm, Bellissima, Dole, Rave Spinach, Emeril, Sysco, O Organic, Fresh Point, River Ranch, Superior, Nature's Basket, Pro-Mark, Compliments, Trader Joe's, Ready Pac, Jansal Valley, Cheney Brothers, D'Arrigo Brothers, Green Harvest, Mann, Mills Family Farm, Premium Fresh, Snoboy, The Farmer's Market, Tanimura & Antle, President's Choice, Cross Valley, and Riverside Farms. The affected products were also distributed to Canada, Mexico, and Taiwan. No illnesses have been reported from these countries. FDA continues to investigate whether other companies and brands are involved.

E. coli O157:H7 causes diarrhea, often with bloody stools. Although most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, some people can develop a form of kidney failure called HUS. HUS is most likely to occur in young children and the elderly. The condition can lead to serious kidney damage and even death.

The FDA developed the Lettuce Safety Initiative in response to recurring outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 in lettuce. As a result of this outbreak, the initiative has been expanded to cover spinach. The primary goals of the initiative are to reduce public health risks by focusing on the product, agents and areas of greatest concern and to alert consumers early and respond rapidly in the event of an outbreak. This initiative is based on the 2004 Produce Safety Action Plan, intended to minimize the incidence of food borne illness associated with the consumption of fresh produce.

The FDA continues to work closely with the CDC and state and local agencies to determine the cause and scope of the E. coli outbreak in spinach.

Source: FDA