Despite this announcement, the FDA reminded that Natural Selection Foods has recalled all spinach products under multiple brand names with a date code of Oct. 1 or earlier. There have been four other recalls from different companies because they received Natural Selection Foods spinach. In order to protect consumers, the FDA said retailers and restaurateurs should not sell raw spinach or blends that may contain spinach that was processed by Natural Selection Foods and all other brands subject to the recalls.
The FDA pointed out that its determination was based on epidemiological and laboratory evidence obtained by multiple states and coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Natural Selection Foods issued a recall of all implicated products on Friday, Sept.15. Four other companies had issued secondary recalls because they received the recalled product from Natural Selections. Spinach processed by other manufacturers has not been implicated in the outbreak.
FDA, the State of California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Agriculture continue to investigate the cause of the outbreak. This includes continued inspections and sample collection in facilities, the environment and water, as well as studies of animal management, water use and the environment.
The FDA said that although the current outbreak may ultimately trace back to a specific are, there has been a long history of E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks involving leafy greens from the central California region. Spinach processed by other manufacturers has not been implicated in this outbreak, however, based on discussions with industry, and given the past E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks, FDA said that it and the State of California expect the industry to develop a comprehensive plan which is designed to minimize the risk of another outbreak due to E. coliO157:H7 in spinach grown in central California.
While this plan is under development, FDA and the State of California have reiterated their previous concerns and advised firms to review their current operations in light of the agency's guidance for minimizing microbial food safety hazards.
FDA and the State of California have previously expressed serious concern with the continuing outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with the consumption of fresh and fresh-cut lettuce and other leafy greens. After discussions with industry, FDA and the State of California, as part of a longer term strategy, now expect industry to develop a plan to minimize the risk of another outbreak due to E. coli O157:H7 in all leafy greens, including lettuce.
The Grower Shipper Association of Central California, the Produce Marketing Association, the United Fresh Produce Association, and the Western Growers Association, said: "We are committed to working together as one industry to learn everything we can from this tragedy, and will redouble our efforts to do everything in our power to reduce the potential risk of foodborne illness. As we have in the past, we will work aggressively with the Food and Drug Administration and state regulatory authorities to ensure the industry's growing and processing practices continue to be based on the very best scientific information available, and that we are doing everything possible to provide the nation with safe and healthy produce."
Implementation of new food safety plans will be voluntary, but FDA and the State of California are not excluding the possibility of regulatory requirements in the future. FDA said it would be holding a public meeting to address the larger issue of food borne illness linked to leafy greens later in the year once the current investigation is complete.
For more on this subject, visit FDA's site: http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2006/NEW01474.html.
For Spanish-language information, visit the following website: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/sfpspi14.html.