The Spinach Recall: Q's and A's

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Federal officials yesterday announced more recalls of bagged spinach potentially tainted with E. coli bacteria, as the number of people sickened by the products rose to at least 114. People have gotten sick in 21 states; 16 people have suffered kidney damage and one has died. An additional case in Illinois may be related. Recalls extend to 37 brands, including all that are supplied by California grower Natural Selection Foods. (See full list of brands below.)

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to investigate the outbreak, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers the following advice and information.

What is E. coli O157:H7, and how serious is the illness it causes?

E. coli O157:H7 is a bacterium that causes diarrhea that is often bloody; the diarrhea can be accompanied by abdominal cramps. Fever may be absent or mild.

Symptoms usually occur within three days of exposure, but may occur as soon as one day after exposure or up to one week after.

Healthy adults can typically recover completely from exposure within a week. But some people, especially young children and the elderly, can develop hemolytic uremic syndrome, a condition that can lead to serious kidney damage and even death.

What does FDA advise?

The FDA advises people not to eat any fresh spinach or salad blends containing fresh spinach that are consumed raw.

What if I've eaten one of these products in the past few weeks?

If you think you've gotten sick after eating fresh spinach or salad blends containing fresh spinach, contact your health care provider.

Where have illnesses occurred?

So far, most cases have occurred in Wisconsin. Other states where cases have occurred are California, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming. Some product was also distributed to Canada and Mexico. The number of illnesses and states involved may grow.

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