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SACRAMENTO -- State and federal health departments identified a ranch in San Benito County as the likely source of last fall's E-coli outbreak in spinach that killed three people and sickened more than 200.
Authorities said the E-coli contamination originated from the Paicines Ranch in San Benito County, although they said they could not make a definitive determination as to how the E-coli contaminated the spinach.
In the long-awaited joint report, the California Department of Health Services and U.S. Food and Drug Administration said they found a bacterial strain in river water, cattle feces, and wild pig feces.
The agencies, which called the bacteria "indistinguishable from the outbreak strain," pinpointed it as coming from a field the ranch leased to Mission Organics, an organic spinach farmer. Investigators also found E-coli samples in the four fields they investigated.
The Paicines Ranch, which breeds Angus cattle and quarter horses, leases land to crop growers and was not under investigation in the outbreak.
"We'll never be able to make a definitive link, but this shows the inherent risk in the area," Patti Roberts, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Health Services, was quoted as saying in local reports. "Hopefully that's what good agricultural practices can address to reduce the risk in the future."