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Growers Announce New Food Safety

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Original Title:
Produce Growers to Announce New Food Safety Measures

California produce growers and processors are formulating new food safety measures after the deadly E.coli outbreak. The outbreak has been linked to Natural Selection Foods in San Juan Bautista. The spinach product recall has virtually halted spinach production in the state.

Western Growers, which represents about 3,000 vegetable and fruit growers in California and other states, is expected to announce a proposal designed to protect produce from E.coli.

The Food and Drug Administration said it warned California farmers last November they needed to do more to ensure the safety of their spinach and lettuce. The agency says there have been 20 cases of spinach or lettuce contaminated with E.coli since 1995.

Although the source of the current outbreak hasn't been pinpointed, previous E.coli outbreaks have been attributed to irrigation water contaminated by cow waste, among other sources.

In the meantime, state health investigators are checking nine spinach farms in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara counties for the source of the bacteria.

On Wednesday a laboratory in New Mexico announced it had isolated E.coli from an opened package of Dole baby spinach leaves in the home of a person from New Mexico who became sick. Tests matched it to the same strain of E.coli in the outbreak that's now spread to 23 states.

As of Friday, 166 people in the U.S. in 25 states have been sickened by E.coli. There has been one death. More than half the victims have been hospitalized. The one case in California was a person from Shasta County. That individual was hospitalized but is now recovering at home.

FDA investigators have ruled out tampering. They are looking at Natural Selection Foods' manufacturing processes and field operations to determine the source of the contamination.

Health experts remind consumers to avoid eating bagged or fresh spinach. Washing the produce won't solve the problem because the bacteria may be in the plant. Grocers have pulled bagged, fresh spinach from store shelves. Many have cleared shelves of bagged lettuce mixes containing spinach.

Frozen and canned spinach is safe to eat, according to the FDA.

Nearly three dozen brands that are supplied by Natural Selection Foods have recalled their bagged, fresh spinach. The 34 brands are: Bellissima, Cheney Brothers, Coastline, Compliments, Cross Valley, D'Arrigo Brothers, Dole, Earthbound Farm, Emeril, Farmers Market, Fresh and Easy, Fresh Point, Green Harvest, Hy Vee, Jansal Valley, Mann, Mills Family Farm, Natural Selection Foods, Nature's Basket, O Organic, Premium Fresh, President's Choice, Pride of San Juan, Pro-Mark, Rave Spinach, Ready Pac, River Ranch, Riverside Farms, Snoboy, Superior, Sysco, Tanimura & Antle, The Farmer's Market and Trader Joe's. The affected packages have "Best if Used By" dates of August 17 through October 1. Consumers can call 800-690-3200 if they have questions.

On Monday, River Ranch Foods voluntarily recalled its bagged salad mix which includes spinach.

E.coli causes diarrhea, often bloody. Most healthy adults can recover completely within a week. But some people, particularly the very young and old, can develop a form of kidney failure that often leads to death.

(This story was provided by News10 KXTV Sacramento.)

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