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F.ood & H.ealth : C.ooking & P.acking Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00

E. coli Outbreak Reported in 8 States
By Barry Hoffman
Sep 15, 2006, 10:06

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Fresh, packaged spinach suspected in 1 fatality, 8 cases of kidney failure, with a total of 50 incidences reported

FRIDAY, Sept. 15 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. health officials have issued a nationwide consumer warning on fresh bagged spinach as they probe a dangerous bacterial outbreak that has caused one death and sickened scores of people in eight states.

At least 50 cases of E. coli 0157:H7 have been reported in Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported in an alert posted on its Web site late Thursday.

The death occurred in Wisconsin, which has 20 cases statewide, 11 in Milwaukee, according to the Associated Press.

While not saying how long ago the first cases were reported, the FDA said the investigation of the E. coli outbreak was ongoing in cooperation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Given the severity of this illness and the seriousness of the outbreak, FDA believes that a warning to consumers is needed," Dr. Robert Brackett, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in the prepared statement.

The FDA advised consumers not to eat any bagged spinach until the source of the bacterium is found. And, Brackett said, anyone who believes he or she has the symptoms of E. coli poisoning should contact a doctor.

According to the CDC, E. coli lives in the intestines of cattle and other animals and is linked to contamination by fecal material. The primary symptom is diarrhea, often with bloody stools. While most adults recover completely, the bacteria is particularly harmful to the very young, the very old, and those with compromised immune systems.

In more serious cases, kidney failure can develop. During this outbreak, the FDA reported, eight cases of kidney failure have been reported.

"Our industry is very concerned," Amy Philpott, a spokeswoman for the United Fresh Produce Association, told the AP. "We're taking this very seriously."

E. coli causes an estimated 73,000 cases of infection, including 61 deaths, each year in the United States, according to CDC statistics.

The last publicly reported outbreaks of E. coli were in 2005. In October, laboratory tests found the bacteria in two bags of lettuce, suspected as the cause of an outbreak in Minnesota that sickened 17 people, eight of whom had to be hospitalized. In December, an E. coli outbreak in the state of Washington sickened at least eight children. That was traced to unpasteurized milk from a dairy.

More information

The CDC has more on E. coli.

-- Barry Hoffman

SOURCES: Sept. 14, 2006, U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory, FDA Web site, Associated Press

Last Updated: Sept. 15, 2006

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