Investigation Continues Into Tainted Spinach

By: Lisa Ferrari
By: Lisa Ferrari

September 18, 2006

The E. coli outbreak is spreading. It's hit 21 states so far and Virginia is one of them.

While health officials work to pinpoint the source of the E. coli bacteria that has forced the recall of all bagged spinach nationwide, restaurants everywhere aren't taking any chances.

“We took spinach completely off the menu,” said Dan Balano server at Wild Greens Restaurant in Charlottesville.

Wild Greens threw out the fresh spinach and is using other vegetables in its place.

“We substitute red leaf and green leaf so I feel we avoid the problem right now,” said one of Wild Greens Owner’s, Thomas Vangelopoulos.

The problem has hit Virginia. Monday night, the Thomas Jefferson Health District is confirming reports of a single case in Commonwealth, but is releasing few other details.

“Currently, the Virginia Department of Health and the CDC have an ongoing investigation and they are looking at lab evidence and other evidence to determine the source,” said Thomas Jefferson Health District Environmental Health Supervisor Eric Myers.

Tests were sent to the lab to confirm it's the same strain that killed one and infected 108 others.

Health officials say they have ruled out tampering as the cause, but one possible source could include contaminated irrigation water.

“There have been cases in the past of produce being contaminated either through the types of methods to fertilize the soil,” said Myers.

Natural Selection Foods, the California company, whose non-organic spinach was linked to the E. Coli, says its organic products have been cleared of suspicion. However, the FDA says it has not cleared any products and is advising consumers to avoid all fresh spinach for the time being. Now local restaurants say they will do the same.

“We're going to keep checking and wait until it’s completely safe,” said Balano.

There is no word on when it might be safe to eat spinach again. Health officials are concerned that this strain of E. Coli bacteria appears to be more harmful than some others, hospitalizing more than half its victims.

Authorities in Ohio are looking at whether or not the outbreak claimed the life of a second victim, a 23-month-old girl.

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