Feds warn against consuming spinach

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Poor Popeye would have been in a fix.

The Federal Drug Administration is advising consumers to avoid spinach following an outbreak of E. coli across multiple states that has resulted in one death and numerous hospitalizations.

&#8220Given the severity of this illness and the seriousness of the outbreak, FDA believes that a warning to consumers is needed. We are working closely with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local agencies to determine the cause and scope of the problem,” said Dr. Robert Brackett, Director of FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN).

E. coli - a bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea and oftentimes kidney failure - has made at least 114 people sick and one woman has died. There have been 16 confirmed cases of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), a form of kidney failure especially deadly to the elderly and young children.

Although Alabama is not currently one of the affected states, local grocery stores have removed fresh, bagged spinach - where the bacteria is thought to have originated - from the shelves.

David Wilson, Assistant Manager at the Wal-Mart Super Center in Greenville, confirmed on Monday that spinach and salad blends containing spinach had been pulled.

At Ruby Tuesday's, Manager Karen Lynn wanted to ensure patrons that spinach had been taken off the restaurant's salad bar.

&#8220Absolutely any thing with spinach in it has been removed,” she said.

Natural Selection Foods, LLC, a California-based company, informed the FDA on Sept. 15 that it had recalled all products containing spinach packed with &#8220Best if Used By Dates” between Aug. 17 and Oct. 1.

In a prepared release, Natural Selection Foods stated: &#8220Based on our work with the US Food & Drug Administration and the California Department of Health Services, we have confirmed that no organic products of any kind, including Earthbound Farm brand spinach or other products, have been linked to this outbreak at this time. However, as the investigation is on going, consumers should continue to heed the FDA's advice not to eat packaged spinach products until further notice.”

As of Tuesday, there are 21 confirmed states: California, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Wisconsin has reported the highest number of cases with 32, followed by Utah with 14.

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

The federal government is warning the public to throw out in bags of spinach. Washing the spinach will not kill the bacteria.

Symptoms of E. coli can include bloody stools as well as abdominal cramping and mild fever. Symptoms usually occur within 2-3 days following exposure. The majority of healthy adults can recover from E. coli within a week.