Please click on any of the links below to hear more information:
COMMENT: My brother Lynn had a question as to whether E. coli
possibly be INSIDE the spinach plant rather than on the outside
could be washed off?! HE WAS RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!! The e-coli is INSIDE
contaminated spinach. This is why manures should NEVER be used
fertilize leafy greens crops.
Consumers should throw away any fresh packaged spinach they may
bought in the past few weeks and not buy more until the warning
lifted, the agency said. It also said that washing the spinach
help because the bacteria is too tightly attached.
The states reporting cases of illness are: California, Connecticut,
Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada,
Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia,
Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. See:
The affected products were also distributed to Canada and Mexico,
Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer of the FDA's Center
Safety and Applied Nutrition, told a Sunday night press conference
all the 109 victims were infected with the strain of E. coli 0157:H7,
CNN reported. Of them, 55 were hospitalized, 16 with a form of
failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.
Acheson said the number of reported cases could increase Monday,
public health departments, many of which were closed over the
The dead woman in Wisconsin was identified as Marion Graff, of
Manitowoc. Her son said she died of kidney failure Sept. 7. Wisconsin
has reported 29 cases statewide so far.
"We are very, very upset about this," Natural Selection
spokeswoman Samantha Cabaluna told the AP. "What we do is
that we want to be healthy and safe for consumers, so this is
The company has supplied a phone number - l-800-690-3200 - for
or replacement coupons.
The FDA said the first cases of infection apparently surfaced
23, and the most recent one was reported Sept. 3. But it wasn't
last Wednesday that the agency was able to identify bagged spinach
the possible cause.
Brackett cautioned that anyone who believes he or she has the
of E. coli poisoning should contact a doctor.
According to the CDC, E. coli lives in the intestines of cattle
other animals and is linked to contamination by fecal material.
be found in undercooked meats and other foods, such as spinach,
lettuce, unpasteurized milk and juice.
The primary symptom of E. coli contamination in humans is diarrhea,
often with bloody stools. While most adults recover completely,
bacteria is particularly harmful to the very young, the very old,
those with compromised immune systems. In more serious cases,
potentially fatal kidney failure can develop.
E. coli causes an estimated 73,000 cases of infection, including
deaths, each year in the United States, according to CDC statistics.
Researchers say deadly bacteria may be in, not on, spinach
By JEFF NESMITH
Cox News Service
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
WASHINGTON - Potentially deadly E. coli bacteria can contaminate
parts of plants like spinach and lettuce through water absorbed
plants' roots, scientists said Monday as federal officials reported
a new outbreak of the bacteria continues to spread.
The scientists' findings means that no amount of rinsing or careful
handling can keep the E. coli out of salads and other foods in
vegetables are used if the pathogen is in, rather than on, plant
It also poses new challenges for farmers seeking to ensure that
crops remain free of the contaminant.
More than 100 persons have fallen ill in recent days and one
eating raw spinach contaminated with the O157:H7 strain of E.
according to Food and Drug Administration officials. A second
a person in Ohio, was being studied to see if it also was linked
In a telephone briefing Monday evening, Dr. David Acheson of
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition said the Centers
Disease Control and Prevention had linked 114 cases of E. coli
in 21 states to raw spinach. The states with the largest number
were Wisconsin with 32, Utah with 15 and Ohio with 10.
Three-fourths of the victims were women, which Acheson said probably
resulted from the fact that women eat more raw spinach than men.
Acheson said FDA food safety investigators were visiting farms
California on Monday in an effort to determine what caused the
He said the FDA had concluded that "there is nothing in
epidemiology to consider this deliberate." He would not estimate
likelihood that the agency would ever know its precise cause.
He urged farmers to adhere to the agency's recommended "Good
Agricultural Practices" as the best way to prevent E. coli
of fresh vegetables.
Following 19 other E. coli-related food-poisoning outbreaks since
the FDA created a Lettuce Safety Initiative establishing stricter
inspections of that farm industry. The initiative has been extended
spinach following the current outbreak.
Asked why spinach wasn't covered to begin with, Acheson said
had "focused our resources on the food ... for which we had
If the E. coli pathogen is found to be inside the plant leaves,
might have serious implications for the burgeoning organic foods
Scientists at Rutgers University reported four years ago that
shown that quantities of the bacteria sufficient to cause disease
present in - rather than on - the plants' leaves.
"I am concerned from the findings that we have," said
Karl Matthews, a
microbiologist. "You can't wash the organism away from the
crop. Even if
it's washed several times, you're not actually washing away the
After growing lettuce in soil that had been deliberately inoculated
with E. coli O157:H7, Matthews washed the leaves in bleach but
found the bacteria inside the plant tissues.
He and other researchers concluded that the pathogen had clearly
traveled to edible parts of the lettuce through the roots.
He said the research was not designed to determine how much
contamination could have occurred, but whether it could happen
Even so, he said, in some cases the amount of E. coli found in
leaves was sufficient to cause disease.
In 2004 and 2005, the FDA's top food safety official told California
farmers that they should do more to protect crops from the floodwaters
that periodically strike the central Salinas Valley, the Associated
Press reported. The waters are known to be subject to E. coli
"In light of continuing outbreaks, it is clear that more
needs to be
done," the FDA's Robert Brackett wrote in a Nov. 4, 2005,
letter, the AP
said. Suggested actions included discarding any produce that comes
contact with floodwaters.
Western Growers, a group representing 3,000 growers and shippers
California and Arizona said the new Lettuce Safety Initiative
was not a
response to any particular incident, and that "the basic
the industry is zero tolerance," said Tim Chelling, a spokesman.
No one has shown that organically produced vegetables are likely
more vulnerable to this form of contamination than conventionally
However, organic crops are nourished not with chemical fertilizer
with material that contains animal manure, usually the source
Federal regulations adopted for organic foods prohibit application
raw animal manure to crops within 120 days of harvest if the edible
portion comes into contact with the manure. Raw manure is not
within 90 days of harvest of any food crop.
However, these regulations determine only whether a farmer qualifies
for the Department of Agriculture "organic food," seal
and are not
enforced by food safety officials. Instead, private organizations
approved by the department visit farms and "certify"
them for the seal.
A California company that has been at the center of an outbreak
coli poisoning in raw spinach produces an organic line of fresh
The company, Natural Selection Foods of San Juan Bautista, Calif.,
recalled fresh spinach and products containing fresh spinach,
FDA has advised against eating any fresh spinach until further
Jeff Nesmith is a correspondent for Cox Newspapers.
Should we bother washing our fruits and veggies?
By Daniel Engber
Posted Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2006, at 6:04 PM ET
Spinach contaminated with a dangerous strain of E. coli has made
people sick so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control
Prevention. Produce consumers have been advised to stay away from
fresh spinach-even a careful washing won't get rid of the bacteria.
Wait, does washing fruits and vegetables do any good at all?
Probably. Food safety experts say that a thorough rinsing can
the number of microorganisms on fresh produce by about 90 percent.
(Commercial "vegetable wash" products don't seem to
do much better.) The
water won't clean off the remainder of the bacteria, which are
nestled in grooves on the vegetable's surface or bound to it by
interacting electric charges (See:
If the bacteria have been present long enough, they can start
to form a
"biofilm"-a slimy matrix that makes them even tougher
to wash off.
(See: http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20010714/bob12.asp )
The cleaning of vegetables is measured in "log reductions,"
correspond to successive 90-percent decreases in the number of
present. When you wash a tomato in the sink, for example, you've
performed about one log reduction in microorganisms. By comparison,
low-acid canned goods frequently undergo a 12-log reduction of
A single-log reduction can help reduce the risk of illness from
kinds of bacteria, especially if they start out in very low numbers.
it won't help very much with the contaminated spinach. The strain
coli in question can make people ill even in very tiny numbers-as
10 or 20 cells will do the trick. If your leaf of spinach started
fewer than 100 E. coli bacteria, you could get it down to safe
with a single washing. But it's likely to have many, many more.
speck of manure might contain a million E. coli cells. (You'd
least a five-log reduction to take that many cells down to a safe
QUESTION: What is E. coli O157:H7-the E. coli in question with
ANSWER: E. coli O157:H7 is a bacterium that causes diarrhea that
often bloody; the diarrhea can be accompanied by abdominal cramps.
may be absent or mild. Symptoms usually occur within 2-3 days
exposure, but may occur as soon as 1 day following exposure or
up to one
week following exposure. Healthy adults can typically recover
from E. coli O157:H7 exposure within a week. However, some people,
especially young children and the elderly, can develop Hemolytic
Syndrome (HUS) as a result of exposure to E. coli O157:H7, a condition
that can lead to serious kidney damage and even death. E. coli
0157:H7 has been responsible for many outbreaks:
# 2006 -- 2006 North American E. coli outbreak. E. coli O157:H7
bagged spinach packaged by Natural Selection Foods and most likely
supplied by Earthbound Farm in San Juan Bautista. 1 dead, and
people sickened by the outbreak across 25 US States 
# 2002 E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef from ConAgra. 19 people
ill in California, Colorado, Michigan, South Dakota, Washington
Wyoming as a result of eating tainted hamburger from a ConAgra
Greeley, Colorado. The company recalled over 19 million pounds
beef it had manufactured, in the third largest recall in history.
# 1997 E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef from Hudson Foods Company
Rogers, Arkansas. Burger King was the largest client. The plant
Columbus, Nebraska. The company recalled over 25 million pounds
ground beef it had manufactured, in the second largest recall
# 1996 E. coli O157:H7 in unpasteurized apple juice from Odwalla.
# 1993 E. coli O157:H7 in undercooked hamburgers from Jack in
Four people died and hundreds of others became sick in the Seattle
and other parts of the Pacific Northwest.
Washing has more of an effect in cleaning off "spoilage
These microbes generally won't make you sick, but they'll reduce
shelf life of your veggies. A thorough washing and drying can
head of lettuce last a little longer before it rots. It might
off some pesticide residue. There's disagreement over the health
posed by this residue. The British Food Standards Agency endured
criticism when in concluded in 2002 that fruits and vegetables
be washed to remove pesticide. (The agency did concede that food
be washed on "hygiene grounds.")
Under some conditions
( http://www.foodsafety.gov/~dms/prodguid.html#ii ), washing can
counterproductive. A pressure gradient may form if there's a big
difference in temperature between the fruit or vegetable and the
being used to wash it. Cold water can be pulled inside warmer
produce-along with potentially harmful bacteria. Water baths can
lead to cross-contamination among pieces of produce. Farmers and
packagers often use chlorinated water to reduce this risk.
Answers In The War On Bacteria From Plants
09 Sep 2006
Back-to-back scientific papers are offering a revolutionary look
battlefield on which plant diseases are fought and often lost
The laboratory of Sheng Yang He at Michigan State University has
changed the textbook description of a plant's surface terrain
unveiling new knowledge of how bacterial pathogens invade plants
take hold. The most recent paper, published in the Sept. 8 edition
Cell, redefines the role of the plant's pores in defense against
invading bacteria and how some bacteria can overpower plants.
Last month, in Science Magazine, the lab outlined a better
understanding of how bacteria set up camp and destroy the plant's
ability to fight infection.
The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health and
Department of Energy and supported by the Michigan Agricultural
"We've known for 100 years that bacterial pathogens cause
crops, yet we still don't understand how they produce disease,"
a professor of plant biology, plant pathology, and microbiology
molecular genetics. "It's very frustrating. How does this
do such great damage to plants?"
But this summer, Maeli Melotto, a research associate, and Bill
Underwood, a graduate student, in He's laboratory, shed light
behavior of one the plant's first lines of defense against disease.
Pores called stomata are like tiny mouths that open and close
photosynthesis, exchanging gases. In sunshine, the stomata open.
darkness, they close to conserve water.
It has been assumed that these tiny ports were busy with their
photosynthesis business and were merely unwitting doorways to
bacteria on a plant's surface. Melotto and Underwood, however,
discovered that stomata are an intricate part of the plant's immune
system that can sense danger and respond by shutting down.
The lab performed experiments on Arabadopsis, a common laboratory
plant, but the mechanisms could be universal across all land plants.
"When we started looking more closely, and put bacteria
on a plant
surface, stomata close. It's like they say 'oh, we have to close
doors!'" Melotto said. "Even if it is in bright daylight,
stomata are supposed to be open, they close."
Some bacteria have gotten smarter. Melotto and Underwood found
plants recognized human-infecting bacteria, such as E. coli, and
the stomata closed to them. Plant-infecting bacteria, like those
destructive to crops, have figured out a way to reopen the shut-down
It appears those plant-based bacteria produce a phytotoxin, a
called coronatine, to force the pores back open. For bacteria,
crucial to causing disease and probably survival. They could die
lingering on the surface. Animal-based bacteria do not produce
"Now that we know a key step in bacteria's attack, we have
can learn to interfere with," Melotto said. "From this
we can learn
about disease resistance."
It's a weighty issue. Bacterial diseases can be catastrophic
One disease, called fire blight, did $40 million in destruction
Michigan apple trees in 2000 alone and all but eliminated commercial
pear crops in Michigan for that year.
He also sees useful human health implications. Understanding
animal pathogens, like dangerous E. coli, cannot easily gain access
inside the plant helps scientists know how to best combat bacteria
cause food borne illness. It is important to know, he explained,
food borne illnesses rest on the surface of an edible plant, or
inside, impervious to washing.
"We are thinking about the mysteries of plant pathologies,
have broad implications," He said. "We haven't understood
very well how
plants and bacteria interact, but we're finally seeing the light."
Sheng Yang He
Michigan State University
Search narrows for tainted spinach
Investigators trace 2 bags as possible source; number of sickened
David Paul Morris
SAN FRANCISCO - Test results linking two bags of Dole brand baby
spinach to a deadly E. coli strain have helped health officials
on a specific batch from a San Juan Bautista processing plant
be the source of a nationwide outbreak.
The investigation remains focused on Natural Selection Foods
officials believe packaged the tainted spinach for Dole and dozens
other brands. They're looking specifically at nine farms in three
California counties that supplied the company with leafy greens.
Both tainted bags - one found in Utah over the weekend and the
New Mexico earlier last week - were processed during the same
Aug. 15 at Natural Selection's plant, said Dr. Kevin Reilly, deputy
director of prevention services for the California Department
"We are looking very aggressively at what was produced on
Reilly said Monday. "Much of the feedback we got from patients
was related to Dole packaging."
Pennsylvania health officials said Tuesday a bag of Dole baby
purchased there was also tied to the deadly E. coli strain. A
identified the strain in a sample of spinach purchased on or around
Sept. 8 in western Pennsylvania.
About two dozen cases have yet to be confirmed as related to
spinach outbreak. West Virginia health officials said Tuesday
confirmed that a 71-year-old man there was sickened by the strain
coli linked to spinach.
"We probably are seeing the tail end of the outbreak,"
Backer, California's acting public health officer. "Partly
as a result
of spinach being taken off from the market, there is not ongoing
The E. coli outbreak from spinach has sickened at least 175 people,
U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Monday. More than half
- 93 -
were hospitalized, including a 77-year-old Wisconsin woman who
Two other deaths have been reported in suspected cases - a child
Idaho and an elderly woman in Maryland - but those cases still
In addition to Dole, Natural Selection Foods has recalled more
brands, including President's Choice, Ready Pac, Trader Joe's,
Basket and Premium Fresh.
It was too soon to say whether any other brands besides Dole would
out to have been contaminated, he added. Calls to Dole's headquarters
Westlake Village were not returned Monday.
Although the FDA has recommended that people not eat fresh, raw
spinach, it said Friday that spinach grown anywhere outside California's
Salinas Valley is safe to eat.
New safety guidelines
Salinas Valley farmers and growers were developing new food safety
guidelines they need to have approved by the FDA before the agency
its consumer warning on locally grown and packaged spinach.
"At this point, there is not a finalized proposal, but I
know there is
a lot of effort going forward with that right now," Reilly
Over the weekend, two companies in the Pacific Northwest voluntarily
recalled some of their products because they may contain spinach
supplied by Natural Selection.
Seattle-based Triple B Corp. recalled salad products distributed
retail stores and delis in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana
had "use by" dates of Aug. 22 through Sept. 20.
Pacific Coast Fruit Company, based in Portland, Ore., recalled
and pizza that may have been made with spinach supplied by Natural
Selections. The products were distributed in Alaska, Oregon, Washington
The 26 states that have reported E. coli infections since the
spinach-linked outbreak was identified last month are Arizona,
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky,
Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico,
York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington,
West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Spinach is Easy to Grow at Home
October 14, 2006
Express-News Staff Writer
Although packaged spinach from California has been declared safe
to eat again, growing it in your own backyard can provide the
kind of peace of mind that doesn't come in a bag. With a little
information and care, even those with thumbs that are any color
but green can cultivate enough for their family's enjoyment.
Horticulturist Jerry Parsons says this is the perfect time of
year to grow spinach in San Antonio. It's a cool-weather crop
that loves our alkaline soil.
Spinach has been scarce in fresh produce aisles due to an E. coli
outbreak that made 200 people sick and killed three. The problem
spinach was traced to an organic farm in California, but such
a situation is unlikely to happen in a home garden as long as
sterilized organic or commercial fertilizers are used and animal
manure is avoided.
"Anytime you fertilize with manures, you stand the chance
of getting E. coli on the foliage of any leafy greens," Parsons
says. Using compost from a home-composting bin is fine as long
as no animal manure is added to the pile.
Because it's hard to germinate spinach seeds, it's best to start
with transplants, which will be available in area nurseries within
the next few weeks. Look for disease-resistant Coho, a semi-Savoy
spinach with crinkled leaves developed specifically for our climate.
Parsons says transplants can be planted anywhere there is a bit
of space - in flower gardens, hanging baskets or patio containers
- in sun or shade.
Another method worth a try is Square-Foot Gardening. Mel Bartholomew
developed the system in the 1980s after shunning traditional row
growing as wasteful and too labor-intensive. The square-foot system
is based on growing in a box divided into areas of one-foot squares
filled with 6 inches of soil. Crop rotation and soil quality is
Tom Harris, a local master gardener certified to teach Square-Foot
Gardening, says spinach is the perfect crop to grow with the method.
Harris says soil should be made from two parts compost, one part
peat moss and one part coarse vermiculite, which is available
at garden centers. Using four, 12-inch by 9-inch planters, which
can be built with scrap lumber, plant nine plants 3 inches apart.
Water the transplants by hand weekly, but don't let the containers
sit in water that has drained through the pot. This can rot the
Let the transplants grow for about two weeks and then start harvesting
the outer leaves, leaving the center of the plant to keep producing.
This will ensure a steady supply of spinach for a family of four
through the winter.
Slugs, snails and pill bugs can be taken care of with baits used
every few weeks.
Spinach is easy to grow, nutritious and safe, so growing your
own is worth a try and just might lead to other homegrown vegetables
on your dinner table.