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Spinach Tainted Traced to California

Tainted Spinach Traced to California

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON —

A California natural foods company was linked Friday to a nationwide bacterial outbreak that has killed one person and sickened nearly 100 others.

Food and Drug Administration officials said Friday that they had received reports of illness in about 20 states.

The outbreak was traced to Natural Selection Foods, based in San Juan Bautista, Calif., and the company has voluntarily recalled products containing spinach.

FDA officials stressed that the bacteria had not been isolated in products sold by Natural Selection Foods but that the link was established by patient accounts of what they had eaten before becoming ill.

An investigation was continuing.

"It is possible that the recall and the information will extend beyond Natural Selection Foods and involve other brands and other companies, at other dates," said Dr. David Acheson, the chief medical officer with the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Natural Selection Foods LLC said in a statement that it was cooperating with federal and state health officials to identify the source of the contamination and had stopped shipping all fresh spinach products. They are sold under the brand names Rave Spinach, Natural Selection Foods, Dole, Earthbound Farm, Trader Joe's, Ready Pac and Green Harvest.

State health officials received the first reports of illness on Aug. 25, and the FDA was informed on Wednesday, Acheson said.

The FDA warned people nationwide not to eat the spinach. Washing won't get rid of the tenacious bug, though thorough cooking can kill it. Supermarkets across the country pulled spinach from shelves, and consumers tossed out the leafy green.

"We're waiting for the all-clear. In the meantime, Popeye the Sailor Man and this family will not be eating bagged spinach," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University. The Tennessee university's medical center was treating a 17-year-old Kentucky girl for E. coli infection.

Each year, consumers buy hundreds of millions of pounds of bagged spinach _ triple-washed and packaged in cellophane bags and clam-shell boxes.

"We will do whatever is necessary to help protect the health and safety of the public," Earthbound Farm spokeswoman Samantha Cabaluna said in a statement.

© 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source The Free Press MN