FDA responds to E.coli spinach outbreak

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Escherichia coli

The FDA is also continuing to provide regular updates on the E.
coli O157:H7 spinach outbreak that has so far resulted in 114 cases
of illness.

The cases, which have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), include 18 reports of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), 60 hospitalizations, and one death.

Illnesses continue to be reported to CDC, and the FDA considers the matter to be an ongoing investigation.

"FDA advises consumers not to eat fresh spinach or fresh spinach-containing products until further notice,"​ said the administration in a statement.

"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."

There have been two recalls so far. Most recently, on September 17, River Ranch, of Salinas, California, announced a 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.

And on September 15, 2006, Natural Selections Foods, of San Juan Bautista, California, announced a recall of all of its 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.

The FDA continues to investigate whether other companies and brands are involved.

Infection with Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7 (E. coli) was first described in 1982. Subsequently, it has emerged rapidly as a major cause of bloody diarrhea and acute renal failure. The infection is sometimes fatal, particularly in children.

Outbreaks of infection, generally associated with beef, have been reported in Australia, Canada, Japan, United States, in various European countries, and in southern Africa. Outbreaks have also implicated alfalfa sprouts, unpasteurized fruit juice, lettuce, game meat and cheese curd.

In 1996, an outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Japan affected over 6,300 school children and resulted in two deaths. WHO said that this was the largest outbreak ever recorded for this pathogen.

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.

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