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Five New E. Coli Cases Reported

September 24, 2006|From the Associated Press

The outbreak of E. coli linked to fresh spinach was blamed for five more cases of illness Saturday, raising the number of people sickened to 171, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

The number of states affected held steady at 25.

So far, 92 people have been hospitalized, including a Wisconsin woman who died. Two other deaths are under investigation for possible links to the outbreak, those of a child in Idaho and an elderly woman in Maryland.

For more than a week, the Food and Drug Administration recommended that people not eat fresh raw spinach.

But after state and federal investigators traced the contaminated spinach to three counties in California's Salinas Valley, officials said Friday that spinach grown anywhere outside that area is safe to eat.

Still, the industry needs to figure out how to let consumers know the origin of what they're buying before the greens can again be sold, said Dr. David Acheson of the FDA's food safety division.

Last week, Natural Selection Foods of San Juan Bautista, Calif., recalled all its spinach and spinach-containing products. Many people reported eating the company's spinach, sold under multiple brands, before falling sick.

Apackage of Dole baby spinach, one of those brands, taken from a New Mexico victim's refrigerator tested positive for E. coli.

Tests on a second bag of Dole spinach in Utah showed evidence of the E. coli strain as well, a state official said Saturday.

"It provides additional hard evidence, which is very important to the FDA," said Dr. Robert Rolfs, referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Also on Saturday, Pacific Coast Fruit Co. of Portland, Ore., announced a recall of its salad products that may have included Natural Selection spinach.

Other companies recalling potentially tainted salad products are S.T. Produce, based in Seattle; River Ranch Fresh Foods of Salinas, Calif.; and RLB Food Distributors of West Caldwell, N.J.

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