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SALINAS VALLEY, Calif. -- Amid an ongoing outbreak of E. coli linked to fresh spinach that had sickened 166 people in 25 states through Friday, spinach grown outside California's Salinas Valley will likely be back in distribution and make return to produce shelves within a few days, federal health officials say.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition said it has determined that the spinach implicated in the ongoing E.coli outbreak was grown in three counties (Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara) in California. Spinach grown in the rest of the United States has not been implicated in the current E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, nor has processed spinach (frozen and canned) and other produce grown in the three counties. As such, the FDA said the public can be confident that spinach grown in the non-implicated areas can be consumed.
Dr. David Acheson of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition said,
"The public can be confident that spinach grown in those non-implicated areas can be consumed," noting that the industry is working to get spinach from areas not implicated in the current outbreak back on the market.
Investigators from FDA, Centers for Disease Control and the state of California are working to further narrow the area implicated in the current E. coli O157:H7 outbreak via farm and plant inspections, which are expected to last another week.
Bryan Silbermann, president of the Produce Marketing Association, said PMA and other association partners, including the United Fresh Produce Association, the Alliance for Food and Farming, and the Western Growers Association, will continue working cooperatively with the FDA to expedite the ongoing investigation, as well as fast forward the implementation of a food safety action plan to address the agencies ongoing concerns.
Produce industry leaders are aiming to present the new food-safety measures to the FDA within a week, which will focus on improved water and soil testing and better sanitation standards for field workers and packaging plants.