10/16/2008 9:23:00 AM 


Link to E. coli doubted
Evidence doesn’t show tainted lettuce came from California

Cecilia Parsons
Capital Press

Source of Article:  http://www.capitalpress.info/main.asp?SectionID=67&SubSectionID=616&ArticleID=45335&TM=78143.51

No California lettuce growers or shippers have been named as the source of the iceberg lettuce that caused 38 cases of E.coli poisoning in Michigan since Sept. 1.

There is even a question of whether the lettuce came from California. A Detroit-based produce shipper, Aunt Mid's, has been cleared as a source of the outbreak.

"There's been lots of speculation, but the source is unknown at this time," Scott Horsfall, CEO of the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement, said Tuesday, Oct. 14.

Paul Simonds, communications manager for Western Growers Association, said there have been no positive tests to date and the only evidence linking California to the illness is shipping dates from the distributor.

According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, the lettuce supplied to Aunt Mid's prior to the outbreak was identified as being from California.

As of Tuesday, Oct. 14, no suppliers from California had been identified. Ken August from the California Department of Public Health said the source is still unknown and there is no confirmation that the lettuce that caused the outbreak came from California. An investigation is ongoing, he said.

There have been no adverse effects on lettuce sales since the outbreak was reported, Simonds said.

Michigan's department of health reports all confirmed cases of E. coli 0157:H7 had the same genetic fingerprint. Additionally, nine cases in Illinois and three from the Canadian province of Ontario have been identified with the same genetic strain of E coli.

A product trace-back by the Michigan Department of Agriculture found Aunt Mid's processed the lettuce supplied to the outbreak locations. Aunt Mid's washed, cut and bagged the lettuce implicated in the outbreak. On their website this week the company reported their packing facility had been cleared as a source of the E. coli outbreak. There was no mention of California lettuce.

The lettuce was in food service bags and sold to restaurants and institutions.

Jill Holton, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Agriculture, said the agency has been working closely with the California Department of Public Health to track down the source of the contamination.

Cecilia Parsons is a staff writer based in Ducor.


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