The FDA and the California Department of Health Services have identified the source of the E. coli-tainted spinach that has sickened 199 people and killed three. As many suspected, cattle feces from a Salinas ranch tested positive for the pathogen, based on matching genetic fingerprints.
“This is a significant finding because it is the first time we linked a spinach or lettuce E. coli O157:H7 outbreak to test results from a specific ranch in the Salinas Valley,” says California State Public Health Officer Mark Horton, MD. “Our follow-up investigation on this ranch is continuing, with the ongoing assessment of animal management, water systems and agricultural practices to clarify how the bacterial contamination of the spinach occurred.”
The cattle ranch, as yet unnamed, is surrounded by thousands of acres of spinach fields, and no one knows how the feces contaminated the crops. Many suspect water runoff, while other possibilities include wind, animals wandering through fields or dirt on farm workers’ shoes.
For now, it remains a troubling mystery, as there have been 20 lettuce- and spinach-related E. coli outbreaks in the Salinas Valley since 1995. California’s summer heat wave quite possibly played a role, as E. coli thrives on warm temperatures.
Some legislators are calling for tougher regulation of the produce industry. As Organic Authority previously reported, inadequate oversight contributes to this public health threat.
For more comprehensive coverage, check out the following Los Angeles Times articles:
- How E. Coli Spread to Fields Remains a Mystery
- Spinach Scare Threatens Farm, Ranch Practices
- Senator Urges Tougher Regulation of State’s Produce Industry
- Washing Removes Most E. Coli; Boiling Kills It
- E. Coli Link Is Found in Cattle Feces
Organic Authority’s Complete Coverage (Chronological)
- Spinach and E. Coli Outbreak
- Spinach Woes
- Shopping for Bagged Greens
- Is It Safe to Eat Frozen Spinach?
- Organic Farming and E. Coli Outbreak
- Preventing E. Coli Infection
- Spinach Ban Modified, But Consumer Caution Advised
- E. Coli Outbreak and Our Contaminated Food Supply
- FDA Announces E. Coli Outbreak Findings
- New Sensor Quickly Detects E. Coli
- Will the Spinach Industry Recover?
- Food Contamination Incidents Likely to Increase (Part 1)
- New Lettuce Recall
- Food Contamination Incidents Likely to Increase (Part 2)
- Food Contamination Incidents Likely to Increase (Part 3)