Tainted Spinach May Be Responsible

Family members of two elderly women — one from Washington and another in Maryland — said spinach tainted with E. coli may be at least partly responsible.  The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control are investigating the deaths.

If confirmed, the cases would bring the number killed as a result of the E. coli outbreak from three to five. Many others were sickened, but recovered.  Officials said 83-year-old Betty Howard of Richland, Wash., died Friday, five months after being hospitalized after eating spinach.  Howard’s family said the woman actually died of heart failure. But the family’s attorney, William Marler, said the woman’s body began giving out only after she fell ill from tainted spinach.

Marler, who is representing more than 90 of the E. coli victims, said Dole has paid all of the out-of-pocket medical expenses for his clients who were hospitalized, including Howard.

The second recent death being investigated is 86-year-old June Dunning.  Health officials said Dunning, who died in September, tested positive for E. coli. However, the sample that tested positive was lost.  But Dunning’s family members said they have other proof: a half-eaten bag of pre-washed Dole baby spinach with the same use-by date and lot number implicated in the outbreak. They said they have handed it over to the CDC but still have not received any test results.

However, it appears that Dole and Earthbound Farm/Natural Selection Foods are probably going to be paying a lot more money than that. Marler said he has filed eight lawsuits in six states.  Earthbound Farm/Natural Selection Foods opted not to comment on the deaths, citing pending legal action.