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franklin county times

Local grocers pull spinach from store shelves

By Staff
Jason Cannon Editor
Federal health officials await test results from California farms and packing plants that could allow them to pinpoint the source of an E. coli outbreak that's sickened spinach eaters across the country.
And it's had at least a small affect locally.
Big Star grocery store employees have had to pull the possibly tainted brand, Fresh Express – which is owned and operated by California-based Natural Selection Foods LLC – from their shelves and wait for the government's approval before they can begin selling it again.
"We received a shipment recently," said Assistant Store Manager John Cook, "but we had to turn around and send it right back."
Cook said Fresh Express is a national name brand.
"That's one of about two main brands," he said.
The store hasn't made any long-term decisions about how to handle the void in their produce department and Cook said they likely won't until the Food and Drug Administration has their final say.
"Bagged spinach isn't a big seller for us any way," he said, "and as far as switching brands, (the E. Coli scare) will affect spinach sells regardless of the brand."
Though state and federal officials have traced the outbreak to the west coast company's fresh spinach, they still don't know how bacteria contaminated the leafy greens.
They have ruled out tampering, leaving multiple other potential sources of contamination, including the water and fertilizer that farmers in California's Salinas Valley use to grow much of the nation's spinach crop. Testing could reveal that source, though that isn't guaranteed.
It is the 20th food-poisoning episode since 1995 linked to spinach or lettuce, the Food and Drug Administration said.
At least eight were traced to produce grown in the Salinas Valley.
So far, E. coli cases linked to tainted spinach have been reported in 21 states, but none in Alabama.
Associated Press writers Andrew Bridges, Marcus Wohlsen and Louise Chu contributed to this story.

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