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9/25
2006
ISSUE:228

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Bryan Silbermann, president of the Produce Marketing Association, holds a handful of a mix of lettuce as he makes a point at a news conference in Salinas, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 21, 2006. Silbermann and Tom Nassif, president and CEO of the Western Growers, were addressing the concerns around the E. coli tainted spinach in the Salinas Valley. Photo: AP


 



Spinach Outbreak Related VIDEO

More E-Coli Deaths, Unknown if Spinach is Source
.. new E-coli deaths but aren't sure if they are linked to the tainted spinach outbreak. Meantime, the number of states affected has grown to 25 with at ...
ForexTV.com



Spinach Farms Warned in '05 About Contamination
The FDA says a warning letter was sent to California produce farms last year after a series of E-coli contaminations. Health officials also say they ...
ForexTV.com

 

 

Spinach Fears - Feature Story
.
.. OFFICIALS ARE STILL TRYING TO PINPOINT THE SOURCE OF THE TAINTED SPINACH FROM CALIFORNIA..THAT WAS FOUND TO BE CONTAMINATED BY E-COLI. AND THE WARNING ...

 



FDA: Most Spinach Is Now Safe
souce from: New York Times
September 23, 2006
The Food and Drug Administration has given the all-clear for consumers to eat spinach again, as long as it does not come from California's Salinas Valley. FDA officials say all the spinach that's been implicated in the E. coli cases were grown in three California counties and that it's completely safe to eat spinach grown outside that area.
The outbreak of E. coli linked to the spinach has made at least 166 people sick in 25 states.
At least one woman died from eating tainted spinach. The deaths of two other people are being investigated

E. coli spinach cases rise to 173
WASHINGTON -- Two more cases of illness were blamed Sunday on the outbreak of E. coli linked to fresh spinach, raising the number of people sickened to 173, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
So far, 92 people have been hospitalized, including a Wisconsin woman who died. Two other deaths have been reported in suspected cases - a child in Idaho and an elderly woman in Maryland - but those cases are still being investigated.
Since the outbreak was reported two weeks ago, the Food and Drug Administration has recommended people not eat fresh, raw spinach. State and federal investigators since have traced the contaminated spinach back to three counties in California's Salinas Valley.
On Friday, officials said spinach grown anywhere outside that area is safe to eat - but industry needs to figure out how to let consumers know the origin of what they're buying before the green can return to sale, said Dr. David Acheson of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
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.

Growers may have tough time enticing spinach eaters back
Source from: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/09/23/SPINACH.TMP
Outside River Ranch Fresh Foods in the Salinas Valley is a large mural of Popeye painted on a building. But it will take a lot more than the spinach-eating cartoon superhero to get farmers out of this mess -- a particularly virulent strain of E. coli that has spread across the nation.
There's never been an outbreak of the bacteria quite like this one, infecting so many people in so wide an area and with no clear idea of how it happened.
Experts say that unless farmers can provide an explanation and a solution, as Jack-in-the-Box and Odwalla did for E. coli contamination in years past, it will be tough to regain consumers' trust.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration isn't helping: The agency can't definitively say when -- or why -- they will declare spinach from this part of the country safe to eat.
The FDA has linked the epidemic to bagged spinach from San Juan Bautista's Earthbound Farm's Natural Selection Food label, which sells its product to more than 30 other brands. Natural Selection and those other labels have voluntarily recalled its spinach products.
Federal and state food inspectors say they might never isolate the cause of the bacterium that has tainted the leafy greens grown in either Monterey, San Benito or Santa Clara counties, killing one person and infecting 165 more across 25 states.
On Wednesday, a bag of partially eaten spinach tested positive for the harmful 0157: H7 strain of E. coli, corroborating suspicions that the vegetable is making people sick. However, that's just one small piece of the puzzle, officials say. The source of the contamination remains elusive.
"It's a little like finding a needle in a haystack," said Dr. David Acheson, FDA director of food safety.
Investigators haven't been able to pinpoint the source of 19 other E. coli occurrences over the last decade -- mostly in lettuce, much of it grown in California, and in 2003 in Salinas Valley spinach. (In the 2003 case, 13 people became ill and two died at a Bay Area retirement center. In 2005, two dozen people got sick in three states after eating E. coli-contaminated Dole lettuce from the Salinas Valley.)
But most of the cases were contained enough that inspectors were able to trace the tainted vegetables to a particular lot and pull them from the shelves without much disruption to the industry. Before long it was business as usual.
"In some of those cases, the fields already had been harvested for the season," said Acheson, adding that the FDA was confident that the grower's farming practices had been brought up to snuff. But this situation, he said, is unique.
"We haven't seen anything like it before," Acheson said of the outbreak's magnitude. "Now there is discussion with the industry to say, 'What is it going to take to ensure that the produce is safe?' We're not going to say it's safe until these changes are put in place and we feel comfortable with them."
When that day comes, how will consumers respond?
"Without being able to explain to the public how it happened and how it won't happen again, the industry has a big dilemma on its hands," said Adam Alberti, executive vice president of Singer Associates, a San Francisco public relations firm that represented Jack-in-the-Box in 1993, when undercooked burgers contaminated with the E. coli bacteria killed four children and sickened hundreds of others in the Pacific Northwest.
"The textbook case is Tylenol," Alberti said. "When the aspirin bottles were being tampered with in 1982, the company came out early and articulated a story of how they could ensure that their product was secure. They came out with the safety seal, and it's been with us ever since."
In the midst of the Jack-in-the-Box crisis, the company's president flew to Seattle, where he took out ads in the city's newspapers, expressing regret, offering to pay medical bills and publicizing an 800 number for consumers to call.
Still, the company's image was tarnished. In reaction, the fast-food chain promoted its new state-of-the-art food safety program, which included a meat-testing process and series of restaurant inspections. Management also hired a microbiologist who helped establish cooking techniques that would kill the bacteria. And soon the fast-food chain was back on top.
Three years later, an E. coli outbreak killed a 16-month-old Colorado girl and infected 66 other people. An investigation tracked the bacteria to unpasteurized apple juice made at Odwalla's plant in Tulare County in the San Joaquin Valley. In July 1998, the Half Moon Bay company pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges of selling adulterated food products and agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine. It was the first criminal conviction in a contaminated food outbreak and the largest criminal fine in a food-injury case in the history of the FDA, officials said at the time.
But the company had acted quickly. Within hours of the notification of the outbreak, Odwalla recalled its apple juice from stores and didn't resume shipments until it started pasteurizing the product to kill bacteria. Company officers said they would pay the medical bills of the injured. For its part, the FDA issued new rules requiring warning labels on vegetable and fruit juices that have not been processed to eliminate bacteria. In 2001, Odwalla was purchased by Coca-Cola. Each year since the acquisition it has grown by double digits and has maintained its dominance in both the natural beverage market and mainstream grocery market, said Ray Crockett, an Odwalla spokesman in Atlanta. Seattle-based attorney William Marler, who represented the plaintiffs in the Odwalla and Jack-in-the-Box cases, said both companies adopted skillful public relations campaigns that maintained their corporate reputations. "To be candid, companies that do that usually escape having more lawsuits filed against them. People say, 'I don't like lawyers, and why do I need a lawyer if this nice company will pay my medical bills and lost wages?' '' Marler said. "I have not seen that message being generated from the spinach fields of California.'' Samantha Cabaluna, spokeswoman for Earthbound Farm, said the outbreak has emotionally devastated the company. "This is so out of the blue for us," said Cabaluna. "We're a company that focuses on healthy food. So we feel just terrible. Several times a day we stop what we're doing and ask each other, 'What's the right thing to do?' ''
Cabaluna said Earthbound is working around the clock to help with the investigation and take care of its consumers.
"This is the toughest thing we've ever had to tackle," she said.
She said sales of Earthbound's other products have certainly dipped, and the company is rushing to omit spinach from its mixed-green salads and is printing new bags with the ingredient removed from its label. But Cabaluna said business is secondary.
"Our priority is getting to the bottom of this and creating consumer confidence in spinach and agriculture," she said. Other Salinas Valley spinach farmers are scrambling to save California's $200 million industry. When the ban is lifted, United Fresh Produce Association plans to launch its first-ever advertising campaign marketing spinach. The ads will promote spinach as nutritious and vitamin rich. "We want to get the message out that the product is good for you, and while we had this unfortunate setback we will do everything we can to see that it does not happen again,'' said Jerry Welcome, executive vice president of the Washington, D.C., trade group, which primarily is concerned with government policy and regulations and food safety.
"Until we rectify the problem," he said, "we cannot reassure the consumer that the product is safe. We can't do that until we adequately address the situation.''
In the meantime, local growers have started promoting the fact that they're devising new safety measures for farming and processing spinach.
"No one wants anyone to become sick from the products we produce,'' said Joe Pezzini, the chairman of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California and vice president of Ocean Mist Farms in Castroville. "But if there was an easy fix to the outbreak, I think it would have been done by now. Certainly, consumer confidence has been shaken. Hopefully, in the next couple of days something will come out of this investigation.'' Federal and state authorities say they have examined 10 farms in the Salinas Valley, where they looked at water sources, drainage, topography, fertilizer, hygiene in the fields and packaging plants, refrigeration systems and harvesting practices. Cabaluna said Natural Selection contracts with those farms to buy spinach but does not own, lease or work the land. Robert Perkins, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, said he believes good will come of the episode even if investigators do not find the precise cause. "There will be a review of food safety practices and we will take any productive steps we can to improve those practices,'' he said. "Obviously, what we were doing was not enough. "If we use the results of the investigation, even if they do not come to a pure conclusion, to say, 'Here is where it could have happened, and here is something we can do that will reduce the likelihood of it happening again,' then that is a good thing."

E. coli attorney calls on spinach industry to pay victims¡¯ medical bills
20.sep.06
from a press release
SEATTLE, WA -- William Marler, a nationally-recognized food safety advocate and attorney, today called on the spinach industry ¡°to do the right thing and immediately pay the medical bills for the victims of this most recent outbreak traced to E. coli-contaminated spinach.¡± Marler noted that, in other large outbreaks, companies such as Jack in the Box, Odwalla, Chi-Chi¡¯s and Sheetz advanced medical costs for outbreak victims whose illnesses were traced to their food products.
To date, the Food and Drug Administration has reported that 131 people have been confirmed as victims of the outbreak, 20 victims developing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially lethal complication of E. coli O157:H7 infection. ¡°With such devastating injuries, and so many of them,¡± Marler continued, ¡°I hope that the people responsible for this outbreak will stop trying to shift the blame or think of more excuses. The FDA has warned the lettuce and spinach industry repeatedly about its problems and deficiencies.¡± Marler noted that this latest outbreak is the twentieth outbreak since 1995 associated with lettuce or spinach.
Marler¡¯s Seattle-based law firm, Marler Clark (www.marlerclark.com), is representing 31 victims of the outbreak, including twelve people who developed HUS. The firm has filed three lawsuits to date?in Utah, Oregon, and Wisconsin.*
Background: Since 1993, Marler has represented thousands of victims of E. coli, Salmonella, Hepatitis A, Listeria, Shigella, Campylobacter and Norovirus illnesses in over thirty States. In 1998, Marler and his current law partners formed OutBreak, a non profit food safety organization. Marler dedicates one-fourth of his time to travel to food-industry conferences, giving speeches about how to prevent foodborne illness litigation.
US District Court for the District of Oregon Case #306-CV-1313JO, Eastern District of Wisconsin Case #06CV977, and District of Utah, Case #206CB00787BSJ.

5 Things You Need to Know About Spinach
With 137 cases in 25 states, including one death, here are some tips for staying healthy and safe
By ALICE PARK
1. To be safe, it's best not to eat any fresh spinach at all. On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration announced that consumers can eat fresh spinach as long as it's not from the three California counties ? Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara ? implicated in the current E. coli outbreak. The problem is, there's no good way to tell where the spinach was grown since distributors get their produce from all over the country. Growers are currently working on a way to label or somehow indicate where spinach was grown to help consumers once the product returns to grocery store shelves.
2. Brands to avoid are Natural Selection Foods (San Juan Bautista, Cal.), River Ranch (Salinas, Cal.) and RLB Food Distributors (West Caldwell, N.J.), all of which have recalled their bagged spinach and spinach-containing salad mixes.
3. If you still can't do without your spinach, cook it. E. coli 0157 on fresh produce can be killed by heating at 160 F for at least 15 seconds.
4. So far, frozen spinach appears to be safe. It's been cooked, and is often cooked again after thawing, so should be unaffected by the current E. coli 0157 outbreak.
5. When fresh spinach returns to the shelves, wash it thoroughly before eating. It's not as good as cooking when it comes to killing bacteria, but a good dousing with water will remove a lot of bugs clinging to the leaves.

Popeye had it right
Even with an E. coli outbreak, there's no reason to stop eating spinach -- try it cooked, frozen, or from a can By Stephen Smith | September 25, 2006
Souce from: http://www.boston.com
There was a time when Popeye was strictly a can man: Nothing but spinach in a tin for the surly sailor-man. But times change, and so did Popeye, and as fresh spinach became all the rage with a health-conscious public, the cartoon character's jowly mug got plastered on bags of fresh spinach. Now, as disease sleuths track a deadly outbreak of E. coli germs blamed on tainted fresh spinach, there's evidence that the sailor had it right back in the old days.
``We have failed to profit from the early example of Popeye," said Dean Cliver , a food safety professor at the University of California at Davis . ``One of the most honored traditions of the human race is learning to cook things so they don't kill us."
That's as true for spinach as it is for beef, which is more often linked with E. coli in the public consciousness. The only way to kill the E. coli that burrow into the nooks and crannies of leafy, ground-dwelling vegetables like spinach is through cooking, or eating spinach from a can, which has already been subjected to high-heat sterilization.
So, until investigators figure out how spinach from central California was contaminated and safeguards are adopted, agriculture specialists recommend avoiding fresh spinach. More than 150 people in 23 states were sickened, apparently by the spinach.
To be sure, the vegetables and fruits and meat we consume today are, overall, vastly safer than the putrid mess that the author Upton Sinclair exposed a century ago in ``The Jungle." At the same time, our tastes and expectations have changed: We want our vegetables to come bagged and fresh and assume that means they're healthier.
``This episode definitely shakes and undermines consumers' confidence," said Trevor Suslow , an extension research specialist at UC-Davis. ``It gets to the point where you say, `I have multiple choices for food options, and right now I'm not going to take this chance.' "
Late last week farmers in the California region dubbed ``The Salad Bowl to the World" promised to improve testing of water and soil for germs and to strengthen sanitation standards for field workers and packaging plants. At the same time, researchers in university labs are accelerating their efforts to find alternative ways to rid produce of dangerous bacteria.
In labs from Gainesville, Fla., to Davis, Calif., scientists are developing high-pressure systems that would blast germs to pieces and are studying the feasibility of treating produce with ozone to kill bacteria. Irradiation, controversial in this country, continues to be explored, as well.
And at the University of Florida , Eric Triplett is studying whether plants could be engineered to keep germs from getting inside in the first place

Ocean Spray Promote Cranberries to Combat E.Coli
Source of Article: http://www.foodingredientsfirst.com/

Sep 22,2006-Compounds in cranberries called proanthocyanidins (PACs) have been known to ¡°disable¡± certain harmful bacteria in the body, helping to ward off infections.

22/09/06 E. coli is a common cause of food-borne illness ? every year, an estimated 76 million cases of food-borne illness and 5,000 associated deaths occur in the United States. Now, there¡¯s a natural alternative to combat certain strains of E. coli bacteria ? cranberries.

Compounds in cranberries called proanthocyanidins (PACs) have been known to ¡°disable¡± certain harmful bacteria in the body, helping to ward off infections. For example, in the urinary tract, cranberry compounds disable certain E. coli bacteria so that they can¡¯t attach to bladder cells and are harmlessly flushed out of the body. Other data has suggested that this ¡°anti-adhesion¡± mechanism of action found in cranberry PACs may also help prevent certain bacteria from adhering to the stomach and the mouth, reducing the risk of stomach ulcers and gum diseases.

According to a new laboratory study conducted by researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, cranberry PACs disable certain E. coli bacteria and may prevent the attachment of microorganisms that cause infection by changing the shape of the bacteria from rods to spheres, altering their cell membrane, and making it difficult for bacteria to make contact with cells, or from latching onto them should they get close enough.

Another study shows cranberries may offer a unique line of defense with their ability to reduce the growth of certain E. coli and other types of bacteria found in food and in the body. Researchers at the University of Maine added cranberry concentrate to samples of food tainted with several types of bacteria that frequently cause food related illness. After several days, scientists discovered that the cranberry concentrate significantly reduced the growth of certain E. coli and other bacteria in the food samples.

¡°Incidences of E. coli contamination and food-borne illness seem to be occurring more frequently throughout the United States,¡± said Dr. Vivian Chi Hua Wu, Assistant Professor, Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition at the University of Maine. ¡°Cranberry¡¯s antimicrobial effect offers considerable promise as a natural and effective tool to prevent such outbreaks.¡±

Some E. coli bacteria are now becoming increasingly resistant to the commonly prescribed antibiotics used to treat them. Cranberries may reduce the need for antibiotics by preventing the initial infection. Fewer infections may mean fewer antibiotics.

Cranberry PACs anti-adhesion activity is primarily due to their unique A-type structure. While some other foods only contain the more-common B-type PACs, it is cranberry¡¯s A-type PACs that are responsible for this anti-adhesion mechanism of action. Since cranberry PACs also function as antioxidants, they provide a dual anti-adhesion and antioxidant health benefit. With more PACs and antioxidants per gram than most fruit, cranberries ward off certain bacteria and bolster the body¡¯s defenses against free radical damage that can contribute to many chronic diseases including heart disease.

Recent E. coli outbreak in the U.S. raises liability questions
22.sep.06
The Gazette (Montreal)
Kathryn Leger
Domenic Crolla, a Gowlings Lafleur Henderson LLP lawyer specializing in professional and product liability, health law and information technology was cited as saying that the spinach-related outbreak and continuing scares about any spread to humans of avian influenza and BSE, or Mad Cow Disease, raise new challenges for those involved in the question of liability - or determining who is responsible - for harm connected to the production, distribution and consumption of food, adding, "There are a lot of gaps, particularly at the international level. It is a huge question because all of this is new. There is actually a real dearth of jurisprudence at the national (Canadian) level and the international level. There have been cases for a simple outbreak in a country, but what we are missing is the mass tort (one event that affects a lot of people) and cross-border type of situation.
"Who is going to assign responsibility when one of these outbreaks occurs and who might be falsely thought responsible? A lot of this is being developed as we speak."
Ronald Doering, another Gowlings lawyer, was cited as saying that while such lawyers as Crolla and others in international law associations are struggling to bring the issues forward "to start to develop a conceptual framework," regulators and food companies are also wrestling with the new reality, adding, "We have now have 250 types of bacteria, parasites, viruses, toxins that will cause food-borne illness, what we call food poisoning, and 50 years ago, we only knew about 50 of them."
The story says that E. coli O15:H7 bacteria, was only clearly identified a little more than 10 years ago (uh, identified in 1980 or so, first linked to human illness in 1982) with the first notable case being the the death of four children in 1993 from so-called hamburger disease, or eating undercooked meat.

Tainted spinach outbreak brings calls to boost food safety
20.sep.06
Knight Ridder Tribune
Michael Doyle, McClatchy Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- The contaminated spinach that's sickening consumers is, according to this story, emboldening lawmakers who want to strengthen federal defenses against future outbreaks of food-borne illness, which could mean more money for research, more muscle for regulators and reformed oversight of the nation's food supply.
But while past food scares have likewise prompted shakeups, second-guessing and open wallets, federal power remains both limited and complex. Top regulatory positions remain unfilled. And there are multiple federal agencies with overlapping responsibilities coping with a hodge-podge of at least 30 different laws touching on food safety.
And, as shown in a recent failed effort to open a new food-safety center at the University of California at Davis, political impediments can be stubborn.
Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., whose district includes the Salinas Valley fields where the tainted spinach was grown, does not want a wholesale overhaul of federal regulatory efforts. He does want more money, so scientists can track how the E. coli bacteria usually found in animal intestines made its way into fresh-cut spinach, adding, "In terms of the emergency response, there's enough money for the short term. I don't think there's enough funding for the long term."
Thestory says that the major federal regulatory agencies devote some $1.7 billion a year and roughly 15,000 employees to enforcing food safety. They do not all wear the same uniform.
The Agriculture Department handles meat, poultry and some eggs. The National Marine Fisheries Service handles seafood. The Environmental Protection Agency oversees pesticides.
The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for fruits and vegetables, so it is investigating the contaminated spinach traced to the Salinas Valley.
The agency, however, lacks the power to recall tainted produce.
Nor do the different federal agencies all follow the same rules. The Agriculture Department, for instance, inspects canning facilities daily if the plant produces canned beans with meat or chicken. If the canned beans lack meat or chicken, the FDA will inspect the plant between a year and up to every five years.
The Government Accountability Office noted last year that, "Most (experts) agreed that laws and regulations should be modernized to more effectively and efficiently control food safety hazards, but they differed about whether to consolidate food safety functions into a single agency."
The story notes that last year, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein secured a $1 million earmark in a Senate funding bill to establish a Western Center for Food Safety and Defense at UC-Davis. It would have been the first FDA-affiliated center of its kind on the West Coast, saying at the time that, "(It) will play an important role in identifying potential threats and finding solutions to ensure the security of our food supply."
But when congressional negotiators met to craft a final spending bill, according to sources familiar with the sessions, the proposed UC-Davis food safety center lacked the support of Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., a conservative member of the House GOP leadership. The money was dropped.

CFIA expects to have the new standards in place next year: Spinach scare shakes up almond growers
20.sep.06
Knight Ridder Tribune
John Holland, The Modesto Bee, Calif.
Upward of 300 billion almonds will rain to the ground in the harvest now under way in the Central Valley.
And if all goes according to plan, none of those nuts will make anyone sick.
The prospect of a food-safety scare always hovers over the valley's farmers and food processors. They see what is happening in the Salinas area, the source of raw spinach believed to have sickened more than 100 people with E. coli bacteria, killing one.
"It doesn't take much for the market to turn on you," said Doug Wells, an almond grower near Livingston. "In order to protect our commodity and our marketplace, we have to make sure we have a safe product."
The spinach business -- worth an estimated $200 million to growers in Monterey and San Benito counties last year -- is at a standstill now that health officials have urged people not to eat the greens.
The Northern San Joaquin Valley, which had an estimated $6billion in gross farm income last year, could take a sizable hit if just one of its major products were tainted.
The risks vary. Almonds, for example, are harvested by tree-shaking machines and sit atop the orchard soil before being swept up and trucked off. The growers can guard against contamination by, for example, not using raw manure as fertilizer. Many processors pasteurize the nuts to kill salmonella and other microbes.

Leafy Green Sewage
(New York Times)
By NINA PLANCK
FARMERS and food safety officials still have much to figure out about the recent spate of E. coli infections linked to raw spinach. So far, no particular stomachache has been traced to any particular farm irrigated by any particular river.
There is also no evidence so far that Natural Selection Foods, the huge shipper implicated in the outbreak that packages salad greens under more than two dozen brands, including Earthbound Farm, O Organic and the Farmer¡¯s Market, failed to use proper handling methods.
Indeed, this epidemic, which has infected more than 100 people and resulted in at least one death, probably has little do with the folks who grow and package your greens. The detective trail ultimately leads back to a seemingly unrelated food industry beef and dairy cattle.
First, some basic facts about this usually harmless bacterium: E. coli is abundant in the digestive systems of healthy cattle and humans, and if your potato salad happened to be carrying the average E. coli, the acid in your gut is usually enough to kill it.
But the villain in this outbreak, E. coli O157:H7, is far scarier, at least for humans. Your stomach juices are not strong enough to kill this acid-loving bacterium, which is why it¡¯s more likely than other members of the E. coli family to produce abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever and, in rare cases, fatal kidney failure.
Where does this particularly virulent strain come from? It¡¯s not found in the intestinal tracts of cattle raised on their natural diet of grass, hay and other fibrous forage. No, O157 thrives in a new that is, recent in the history of animal diets ? biological niche: the unnaturally acidic stomachs of beef and dairy cattle fed on grain, the typical ration on most industrial farms. It¡¯s the infected manure from these grain-fed cattle that contaminates the groundwater and spreads the bacteria to produce, like spinach, growing on neighboring farms.
In 2003, The Journal of Dairy Science noted that up to 80 percent of dairy cattle carry O157. (Fortunately, food safety measures prevent contaminated fecal matter from getting into most of our food most of the time.) Happily, the journal also provided a remedy based on a simple experiment. When cows were switched from a grain diet to hay for only five days, O157 declined 1,000-fold. This is good news. In a week, we could choke O157 from its favorite home ? even if beef cattle were switched to a forage diet just seven days before slaughter, it would greatly reduce cross-contamination by manure of, say, hamburger in meat-packing plants. Such a measure might have prevented the E. coli outbreak that plagued the Jack in the Box fast food chain in 1993.
Unfortunately, it would take more than a week to reduce the contamination of ground water, flood water and rivers all irrigation sources on spinach farms ? by the E-coli-infected manure from cattle farms.
The United States Department of Agriculture does recognize the threat from these huge lagoons of waste, and so pays 75 percent of the cost for a confinement cattle farmer to make manure pits watertight, either by lining them with concrete or building them above ground. But taxpayers are financing a policy that only treats the symptom, not the disease, and at great expense. There remains only one long-term remedy, and it¡¯s still the simplest one: stop feeding grain to cattle.
California¡¯s spinach industry is now the financial victim of an outbreak it probably did not cause, and meanwhile, thousands of acres of other produce are still downstream from these lakes of E. coli-ridden cattle manure. So give the spinach growers a break, and direct your attention to the people in our agricultural community who just might be able to solve this deadly problem: the beef and dairy farmers. 9-21-06

Biophage anti-bacterial food safety solution for E.coli contamination in fresh produce
21.sep.06
from a press release
MONTREAL - Biophage Pharma Inc. (TSX-V: BUG) ("Biophage") is pleased to provide an update on its integrated approach for the management of bacterial contamination in food produce. Both the biosensor and the phage therapy programs developed at Biophage are aimed at providing a safe and environmentally friendly solution for the control of deadly microorganisms in food produce (including meat, fruits and vegetable) like the recent case of E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak linked to bagged spinach in the US.
Since the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario, where seven people died and a dozen more were hospitalized, Biophage has isolated a large number of bacteriophages against E. coli O157:H7 from water treatment plants and farms in the US and Canada. We presently have a large repertoire of specific phages for this deadly disease that could be developed as a powerful treatment for the control of E. coli O157:H7 bacterial contamination in food produce. Moreover, as complement to our strategy of management of bacterial contamination, our Biosensor technologies are also developed to be able to detect and identify live bacteria in a sample. These 2 technologies used together will allow the detection of pathogen and selection of the good treatment to apply for an efficient control of the bacterial contamination.
Dr Mandeville, President and CEO of Biophage commented, "Here at Biophage, we are ready to work with the government authorities to develop different strategies for the rapid containment of E. coli O157:H7 contamination in fresh produce". Dr Mandeville continued, "Phage therapy is a safe and natural approach for the control of micro-organisms and Biophage is committed to develop and commercialize this anti-bacteria food safety solution".

Officials consider spinach labeling plan
21.sep.06
Associated Press
Andrew Bridges
WASHINGTON -- Like fine wine and cheese, spinach could, according to this story, be labeled with a place of origin to reassure shoppers jittery about an E. coli outbreak linked to leafy greens grown in California.
Federal health officials were cited as saying Thursday that more explicit labeling was just one proposal under consideration for allowing fresh spinach back on the market. Others include stepped-up regulation of how spinach is grown and processed.
Dr. David Acheson of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, was quoted as saying, "Clearly, we do not want to deny consumers access to spinach. Wherever it's grown, our responsibility is to make sure whatever does end up on the shelf is safe."


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