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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Lettuce or Spinach – Again?

 Nothing yet has been solidly confirmed, however, I have been contacted by two Oregon residents who believe that they are part of a wider E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that is potentially tied to the consumption of bagged "Baby Spinach."  It appears that the Oregon State Department of Health (one of the best in the country) may have cracked the case.  I assume that the FDA  and California State Department of Health are also involved.  I think the next 24 hours will be the key.  We were also contacted by a family in Manitowoc,  Wisconsin that may have also consumed this same product.   This outbreak may also involve over 11 people, mostly children, in Milwaukee.  Sure should seem that Milwaukee would have had enough of E. coli after the Sizzler outbreak of 2000.  I certainly hope that this in not another Salinas Valley, California E. coli outbreak.  As we know, the Dole lettuce case in 2005 sickened dozens in Oregon, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Also, the recent E. coli outbreak in Utah has implicated lettuce, although it is still possible that the lettuce became contaminated AFTER it arrived at the Wendy’s restaurant.  In addition, there has also been a more recent E. coli outbreak in Utah.  There is not yet a reported source.

E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks associated with lettuce or spinach, specifically the “pre-washed” and “ready-to-eat” varieties sold under various brand and trade names, are by no means a new phenomenon. In October 2003, 13 residents of a California retirement center were sickened and 2 died after eating E. coli-contaminated “pre-washed” spinach.  In September 2003, nearly 40 patrons of a California restaurant chain became ill after eating salads prepared with bagged, “pre-washed” lettuce.  In July 2002, over 50 young women were stricken with E. coli at a dance camp after eating “pre-washed” lettuce, leaving several hospitalized and one with life-long kidney damage.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest found that, of 225 food-poisoning outbreaks from 1990 to 1998, nearly 20 percent (55 outbreaks) were linked to fresh fruits, vegetables, or salads.