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FDA renews warning of E. coli in spinach

Agriculture.com Staff 09/18/2006 @ 9:37am

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Sunday extended its call for caution and advises consumers to avoid fresh spinach after the discovery of more E. coli.

To date, 109 cases of illness due to E. coli infection have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including 16 cases of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) and one death. Illnesses continue to be reported to CDC. This is considered to be an ongoing investigation.

Officials suspect a virulent strain of the microbe -- which causes symptoms similar to diarrhea and can occasionally be fatal especially to children, the elderly and the immunocompromised -- came from prewashed spinach, but the specific origin of the strain remains unknown.

Cases have been reported in California, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming, according to the FDA. Wisconsin has been hardest hit, with at least 20 cases including the patient who died.

E. coli O157:H7 causes diarrhea, often with bloody stools. Although most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, some people can develop a form of kidney failure called HUS. HUS is most likely to occur in young children and the elderly. The condition can lead to serious kidney damage and even death.

The Food and Drug Administration advises consumers to not eat fresh spinach or fresh spinach-containing products until further notice. 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.

The FDA has expanded its Lettuce Safety Initiative in response to the recent outbreaks of E.coli O157:H7 in 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 foodborne illness associated with the consumption of fresh produce.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Sunday extended its call for caution and advises consumers to avoid fresh spinach after the discovery of more E. coli.

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