Consumer warning on spinach

Reply Fri 15 Sep, 2006 01:59 am
E. Coli Cases Traced to Bagged Spinach

Associated Press Writer
Published September 15, 2006, 2:01 AM CDT

WASHINGTON -- An outbreak of E. coli in eight states has killed one person and sickened at least 49 others, federal health officials said Thursday in warning consumers nationwide not to eat bagged fresh spinach.

The death occurred in Wisconsin, where 20 people were made ill, state officials said. The outbreak has sickened others -- eight of them seriously -- in Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah, according to federal health officials.

In California, state health officials were investigating a possible case that could be linked to the outbreak and warned consumers not to eat the produce.

FDA officials do not know the source of the outbreak other than it appears to be linked to bagged fresh spinach. "We're advising people not to eat it," said Dr. David Acheson of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

The outbreak has affected a mix of ages, but most of the cases have involved women, Acheson told reporters in a conference call. He had no further information on the person who died.

The five confirmed patients in Oregon were females who ranged in age from 8 to 62, said Dr. Bill Keene, an epidemiologist with the Oregon Department of Human Services. The cases originated between Aug. 25 and Sept. 1, he said, and were linked to the spinach but not to a specific brand.

"People have either varying or no recollection of the brand they purchased," Keene said.

In Michigan, two adults and a child were sickened, a state health official said. Connecticut reported one case.

"We're telling people if they have bagged produce and they feel like it's a risk, throw it out," Michigan Department of Community Health spokesman T.J. Bucholz said. "If they feel like they have to eat it, wash it first in warm water."

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare was advising people to exercise caution as it tried to gather more information, spokesman Ross Mason said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Wisconsin health officials alerted the FDA about the outbreak Wednesday. Preliminary analysis suggests the same bug is responsible for the outbreak in all eight states.

The warning applied to consumers nationwide because of uncertainty over the origin of the tainted spinach and how widely it was distributed.

Health officials do not know of any link to a specific growing region, grower, brand or supplier, Acheson said.

He said reports of infections have been growing.

"It's increasing by the day," Acheson said. "We may be at the peak, we may not be."

Amy Philpott, a spokeswoman for the United Fresh Produce Association, said that it's possible the cause of the outbreak won't be known for some time, even after its source is determined.

"Our industry is very concerned," she said. "We're taking this very seriously."

E. coli causes diarrhea, often with bloody stools. Most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, although some people -- including the very young and old -- can develop a form of kidney failure that often leads to death.

Anyone who has gotten sick after eating raw packaged spinach should contact a doctor, officials said.

Other bagged vegetables, including prepackaged salads, apparently are not affected. In general, however, washing all bagged vegetables is recommended.

E. coli lives in the intestines of cattle and other animals and typically is linked to contamination by fecal material. It causes an estimated 73,000 cases of infection, including 61 deaths, each year in the United States, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sources of the bacterium include uncooked produce, raw milk, unpasteurized juice, contaminated water and meat, especially undercooked or raw hamburger, the agency says on its Web site.

In December 2005, an E. coli outbreak sickened at least eight children in Washington state. Officials traced the outbreak to unpasteurized milk from a dairy that had been ordered to stop distributing raw milk.

Last October, the FDA warned people not to eat certain Dole prepackaged salads that were connected to an outbreak of E. coli infections in Minnesota. At least 11 people were sickened.

In 1993, a major E. coli outbreak sickened about 700 people and killed four who ate undercooked Jack in the Box hamburgers in Washington state. That outbreak led to tighter Agriculture Department safety standards for meat and poultry producers.

Associated Press writers Sven Gustafson in Detroit and Kasie Hunt in Washington contributed to this report.
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 15 Sep, 2006 01:59 am
Graphic from the print report in today's Chicago Tribune (15.09.2006, page 3)

Added from own search:

• Escherichia coli (O157:H7) is an emerging cause of food-borne illness. An estimated 73,000 cases of infection and 61 deaths occur in the United States each year
• Infection often leads to bloody diarrhea, and occasionally to kidney failure. Most illness has been associated with eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef
• Person-to-person contact in families and child care centers is also an important mode of transmission
• Infection can also occur after drinking raw milk and after swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated water
• Consumers can prevent E. coli O157:H7 infection by thoroughly cooking ground beef, avoiding un-pasteurized milk, and washing hands carefully
• Because the organism lives in the intestines of healthy cattle, preventive measures on cattle farms and during meat processing are being investigated
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Sat 16 Sep, 2006 05:00 am
An outbreak of E. coli has been linked to a California spinach processor, but government investigators are looking into other producers as well:

Spinach traced to California

Spinach is trace back to California.

http://i10.tinypic.com/33lyohs.jpg http://i9.tinypic.com/33bh4p1.jpg

source: Chicago Tribune, 16.09.2006, page 8
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Reply Sat 16 Sep, 2006 06:27 am
Because most spinach sold in stores comes from the US at this time of year, Canadians have also been warned off.

"We're telling people if they have bagged produce and they feel like it's a risk, throw it out," Michigan Department of Community Health spokesman T.J. Bucholz said. "If they feel like they have to eat it, wash it first in warm water."

Oddly, we're told that e.coli is not affected by water alone, only high heat.
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