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Illinois' E. coli case linked to bagged spinach          Send a link to a friend

FDA says it is safe to eat local, frozen or canned spinach

[SEPT. 27, 2006]  SPRINGFIELD -- Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, announced Tuesday that a sample of bagged spinach related to Illinois' first case of E. coli O157:H7 was positive for the bacteria. Last week an elderly woman from LaSalle County was the first state resident whose E. coli O157:H7 isolate matched the national outbreak strain associated with spinach consumption. Bagged spinach collected from her home was tested at the Illinois Department of Public Health's new Springfield Combined Laboratory Addition and found to be positive for E. coli O157:H7. Further testing will take place to confirm that the strain of E. coli isolated from this bagged spinach also matches the outbreak strain.

The Food and Drug Administration has determined that the spinach implicated in the outbreak was grown in three counties in California: Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara. Other produce grown in these California counties is not implicated in this outbreak. Spinach grown in the rest of the United States has not been implicated in the current E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. Therefore, the FDA has advised that spinach grown in areas not implicated can be consumed. Consumers are advised not to buy or eat fresh spinach if they cannot verify that it was grown in areas other than the three California counties implicated in the outbreak.

The food industry is working to get spinach from areas not implicated in the current E. coli O157:H7 outbreak back on the market.

"For now, when you buy spinach, you need to look for labeling on the package that says where the spinach is produced and make sure it's not one of the three implicated counties in California," Whitaker said. "Frozen or canned spinach and spinach sold in local farm markets from local growers is safe to consume and is not part of the national outbreak."

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Early last week Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, the Illinois Restaurant Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association joined to reiterate their call to all grocery stores and restaurants in Illinois to help prevent E. coli contamination by pulling spinach and spinach-related products from shelves and menus.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is working with the Centers for Disease Control laboratory to test people suspected of being linked to the outbreak. Health care providers with suspect cases may submit stool specimens to the Department of Public Health laboratory for testing after consulting with their local health department. The Illinois Department of Public Health continues to conduct tests at the Springfield Combined Laboratory Addition on samples submitted as a result of this outbreak.

[Illinois Department of Public Health news release]


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