The Pennsylvania Department of Health has said it has positively identified a second sample of fresh, bagged spinach as containing E. coli O157:H7, the strain involved in the national outbreak.
The state’s health department has also confirmed Pennsylvania’s ninth human case of E. coli connected to the outbreak, in an Indiana County resident.
The department’s Bureau of Laboratories in Lionville, Chester County, in cooperation with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, identified the strain of E. coli in a sample of fresh, bagged Dole baby spinach purchased on 21 August in Luzerne County as matching the strain linked to the ongoing multi-state outbreak.
According to an earlier Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bulletin, the spinach implicated in the outbreak was grown in three counties: Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara in California. But spinach grown in the rest of the US has not been linked with the outbreak.
The FDA has advised consumers not to purchase or consume fresh spinach if they cannot verify that it was grown in areas other than the three California counties implicated in the outbreak.
Meanwhile, as spinach returns to the shelves, growers of curly leaf or Savoy spinach, which is marketed as an alternative to flat leaf spinach, have been working with processors and re-packers to develop labelling that clearly identifies the origin of the product.
Producers of this other form of spinach, grown outside California, have been looking to capitalise as consumers seek an alternative to the type of spinach affected by the E. coli outbreak.
Michael Fechter, vice president of sales for Tosca Ltd., which supplies containers to the curly leaf spinach industry, said that it was important for the industry to be sure that wholesalers, retailers and consumers know that curly leaf spinach is grown in the near west, southeast and northeast US.
Savoy/curly leaf spinach producers are also stressing that their product is handled differently from the flat leaf spinach that was found to contain e-coli, which prompted the ban on all spinach sales. A statement released by Tosca stated that once harvested, Savoy spinach is placed in sophisticated, ice-packed, sanitised containers designed specifically to handle curly leaf spinach before being sent to re-packers in the produce industry.