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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition said Friday that it had traced the widespread outbreak of E. coli that probably sickened more than 180, led to one confirmed death, and whisked spinach from shelves across the nation, back to a single processor of fresh spinach-- Natural Selection Foods LLC of San Juan Bautista, California.
The federal agency, along with the state government of California, warned members of the industry to get their act together and develop a plan to minimize the risk of another outbreak due to E. coli O157:H7 in all leafy greens, including lettuce.
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The Grower Shipper Association of Central California, Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association and Western Growers Association jointly said Friday that they recognize FDA's aggressive efforts to expedite its investigation to locate the source of E.coli that was first associated with spinach earlier this month.
"We are committed to working together as one industry to learn everything we can from this tragedy, and will redouble our efforts to do everything in our power to reduce the potential risk of foodborne illness," the produce trade groups said in a joint statement. "As we have in the past, we will work aggressively with the Food and Drug Administration and state regulatory authorities to ensure the industry's growing and processing practices continue to be based on the very best scientific information available, and that we are doing everything possible to provide the nation with safe and healthy produce."
The FDA's action to narrow the investigation to a single processor is only a first step toward rebuilding the public's confidence in spinach, the industry representatives acknowledged. "And while we continually invest millions of dollars annually to analyze and enhance existing systems, we pledge to do more," they said in a statement.