Contaminated spinach products recalled

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says two more companies have recalled their products, because they may contain spinach linked to a food poisoning outbreak, which has caused serious illness and at least one death.

According to the FDA 173 people in 25 states had become ill from the E. coli O157:H7 bacteria, linked to fresh spinach, including 27 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a type of kidney damage.

So far there have been 92 hospitalizations and the death of a Wisconsin woman.

State health officials also suspect that the deaths of a 2-year-old boy in Idaho and an 86-year-old woman in Maryland are linked to the outbreak.

The FDA says the E. coli bacteria causes diarrhea, often with bloody stools and although most healthy adults as a rule recover completely within a week, some people develop HUS; this more commonly occurs in the elderly and young children and can lead to serious kidney damage and even death.

Experts from the FDA, state health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are searching farms and processors in California's Salinas Valley for clues regarding the outbreak.

The outbreak was first reported two weeks ago, and has been traced to contaminated spinach from three counties in California's Salinas Valley; the FDA has recommended people not eat fresh, raw spinach from the counties of Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara areas.

FDA officials have said that spinach grown elsewhere is safe to eat; the food industry is reportedly working to get safe spinach back on store shelves, but Dr. David Acheson of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition says the industry needs to inform consumers of the origin of the greens before it can be returned to sale.

The 25 states that have reported infections are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Details of the recalled products are on the FDA's Web site at http://www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/rlb09_06.html.

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