Spinach and E. coli Contamination: How Can Spinach Be Contaminated with E. coli?
In September of 2006, the United States witnessed, firsthand, the effects of a national E. coli outbreak. Escherichia coli O157:H7 (a potentially deadly strain of E. coli bacteria) was found in raw spinach that was sold to consumers throughout the United States. Investigators who were responsible for investigating the outbreak, concluded that the probable origin of the outbreak was a California Angus cattle farm who had leased nearby land to a spinach grower.
As a result of the contamination of the Spinach, 276 consumers reported becoming ill throughout 26 states, and there were 3 reported deaths. 31 of those reporting illnesses suffered from Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), which is a life-threatening bacterium that causes severe dehydration and bloody diarrhea. HUS has also been linked to kidney failure. HUS and E. coli are very serious food pathogens, which require immediate medical attention.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the California Department of Health Services (CDHS), in a combined report, concluded that the probable source of the outbreak was the Pacines Ranch in San Benito, CA, a working cattle ranch who had leased land to a spinach grower, Mission Organics, to cultivate spinach.
The CDC, FDA, and CDHS identified 26 E. coli samples in cattle feces and water samples that were “indistinguishable” from those found on the contaminated, recalled spinach. Some of the samples were less than one mile away from the area where the spinach was being grown.
Although investigators were unable to pinpoint exactly how the spinach was contaminated, some speculated that some surface water at the ranch was close in proximity to the irrigation wells used to irrigate the crops. It’s possible that the water used to irrigate the crops was contaminated with cow feces. In addition, the reports also noted the presence of wild pigs at the ranch. As a result of this outbreak, California’s farm industry adopted new “good agricultural practices,” in an effort to prevent future outbreaks.
If you or a loved one has been affected or suffered food poisoning by contaminated food products, such as E. coli or HUS, call the Food Poisoning Attorneys at Hill Law Firm for a free consultation.