Friday, September 15, 2006

FDA Warning To Discard Fresh Bagged Spinach

E. coli outbreak in 10 states tied to spinach - Infectious Diseases
WASHINGTON - Federal health officials worked Friday to find the source of a multistate E. coli outbreak and warned consumers that even washing the suspect spinach won't kill the sometimes-deadly bacteria.

One person died and dozens of others were sickened in the ten-state outbreak, linked by Food and Drug Administration officials to bagged spinach. "We need to strive to do even better so even one life is not lost," said Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, FDA's acting commissioner.

The FDA warned people not to eat bagged spinach and said washing it wouldn't solve the problem because the bacteria is too tightly attached. "If you wash it, it is not going to get rid of it," said Robert Brackett, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Nutrition.

The original outbreak was reported Thursday in eight states. On Friday, Ohio and Kentucky brought the tally to 10, as additional reports trickled in to state and federal health officials.

Ohio health officials reported seven cases --- one serious --- while Kentucky officials knew of a single case involving a 17-year-old girl being treated in neighboring Tennessee.

Meanwhile, supermarkets around the country began pulling packaged spinach from store shelves. "We pulled everything that we have spinach in," said Dan Brettelle, manager of a Piggly Wiggly store in Columbia, S.C.

Officials believes the spinach may have been grown in California, and federal and state health officials were there trying to pinpoint the source of the contamination.

E. coli is commonly present in animal manure. Brackett said the use of manure as a fertilizer for produce typically consumed raw, such as spinach, is not in keeping with good agricultural practices.  "It is something we don't want to see," he told a food policy conference.

Ten states were reporting a total of at least 58 cases of E. coli, according to the latest tally Friday. 
The death occurred in Wisconsin, where 20 people were reported ill, 11 of them in Milwaukee.
The outbreak has sickened others --- nine of them seriously --- in Connecticut, Kentucky, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon and Utah.  In California and Washington, health officials were investigating a single case in each of the two states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Wisconsin health officials alerted the FDA about the outbreak at midweek.  A special effort is under way in the Salinas Valley of California, a major leafy-vegetable growing region, to look for any possible source of contamination there.

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.

"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.

E. coli lives in the intestines of cattle and other animals and typically is linked to contamination by fecal material.

The disease-linked strain of the bacterium 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.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


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