Thursday, October 5, 2006

You Pick Up the Spinach

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California announced that FBI agents executed search warrants at the plants of two Central Valley food processors in connection with an investigation of spinach from Salinas contaminated with E. coli.  In September, over 200 people fell ill due to contaminated spinach, and one person died from eating spinach infected with E. coli 0157:H7 traced to the Salinas area.   A press release (here) issued by U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan states, "I want to reassure the public that there is no indication in this investigation that leaf spinach was deliberately or intentionally contaminated. We are investigating allegations that certain spinach growers and distributors may not have taken all necessary or appropriate steps to ensure that their spinach was safe before they were placed into interstate commerce. Moreover, the investigation has not revealed any evidence of a new or continuing threat to public health in connection with the matters under investigation."  A San Francisco Chronicle story (here) indicates that agents searched the two plants for documents related to quality assurance and whether FDA guidelines were followed in the packaging of the spinach.  The execution of the search warrants means that the spinach investigation has moved from a public health issue to a full-scale criminal investigation. (ph)

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