Official word of the bagged spinach outbreak broke with the FDA’s announcement, on September 14, 2006, that a number of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses across the country “may be associated with the consumption of produce.”
Meanwhile, the FDA and CDC, in conjunction with local and state health agencies from across the country, worked feverishly to figure out the brand names associated with illness. Early statistical analysis suggested that many brands were implicated, but the spinach sold under the several brand names had all come from the Natural Selection Foods processing center in San Juan Batista, California. Accordingly, Natural Selection recalled all of its spinach products with “use by” dates from August 17 to October 1, 2006. The recall, of course, included Dole brand spinach. But further data and study ultimately narrowed the possible sources of the outbreak down to one brand of packaged greens: Dole.
Ultimately, the FDA confirmed 205 outbreak-related cases, with 102 hospitalizations, thirty-one cases of HUS, and five deaths, though the actual number of people affected by the outbreak was certainly much larger. This is the story of one of those cases.