FDA Urges Consumers to Stop Eating Bagged Spinach During Outbreak
Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal
September 15, 2006
Consumers should heed the advice of the Food and Drug Administration and not eat bagged commercial spinach until the precise source of the outbreak is discovered and until public health authorities indicate it is safe to consume this product again. Infection from E. coli O157:H7 can cause abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and in some cases, including in this outbreak, Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, which causes kidney failure and death. By issuing this alert to the public earlier than in past outbreaks, the FDA has probably prevented even more people from getting sick or dying.
But unfortunately, fresh produce is too often contaminated with E. coli, Salmonella, or other potentially deadly pathogens. Contamination can come from use of untreated manure used as fertilizer, irrigation water contaminated with waste from animal agriculture, or cross-contamination during processing. It is vital that the federal government ensure the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially since we want people to eat more of these healthy foods, not less. But regrettably, food-safety responsibilities are divided among the FDA, USDA, and other agencies, with no single agency having primacy from farm to fork.