WASHINGTON – The outbreak of E. coli linked to fresh spinach was blamed for another five cases of illness Saturday, raising the number of people sickened to 171, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
The number of states affected held steady at 25. So far, 92 people have been hospitalized, including a Wisconsin woman who died. Two other deaths have been reported in suspected cases — a child in Idaho and an elderly woman in Maryland — but those cases are still being investigated.
For more than a week, the Food and Drug Administration has recommended people not eat fresh, raw spinach. State and federal investigators since have traced the contaminated spinach back to three counties in California's Salinas Valley, and already farm inspections there are turning up possible problems.
On Friday, officials said spinach grown anywhere outside that area is safe to eat — but industry needs to figure out how to let consumers know the origin of what they're buying before the green can return to sale, said Dr. David Acheson of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Last week, Natural Selection Foods LLC of San Juan Bautista, Calif., recalled all its spinach and spinach-containing products. Many people reported eating the company's spinach, sold under multiple brands, before falling sick. And a package of Dole baby spinach, one of those brands, taken from a victim's refrigerator tested positive for E. coli.
On Saturday, Pacific Coast Fruit Co. of Portland, Ore., announced a recall of its salad products that may have included Natural Selection spinach. Others companies recalling potentially tainted salad products are S.T. Produce, based in Seattle, River Ranch Fresh Foods of Salinas, Calif., and RLB Food Distributors of West Caldwell, N.J.
Pacific Coast said its products were distributed in Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. S.T. Produce said Friday its salads were distributed to stores and delis in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
The states that have reported infections are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.