Spinach Off Many Store Shelves After E.coli Outbreak

WILMINGTON -- Some area grocery stores had pulled bagged spinach off the shelves, after the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning, urging Americans to dispose of their bagged spinach.

The warning came after an E.coli outbreak which spread to 19 states in the union. Dozens of people got sick from the bacteria outbreak; and one person in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has died.

Staff at Piggly Wiggly in Leland decided not to put their new shipment of the leafy vegetable on the store shelves as a precaution Friday morning.

"We read all the labels and made sure nothing was out here that had any spinach at all," said Kay Sturgill, manager at Piggly Wiggly.

Federal health officials are trying to find the source of the E.coli, and suspect it may have come from California.

According to the FDA, the particularly virulent strain of the bacteria would not be eliminated even after washing.

"They always take a precaution and make sure we take it off the shelves," Sturgill said, "so the customer doesn't have to worry about it being safe."

Experts said that only bagged spinach seemed to be the culprit. Other raw produce should be safe for comsumption if washed or cooked.

However, there is still spinach for sale in some local markets. Tidal Creek Co-op in Wilmington has kept spinach on their shelves.

According to Trace Ramsey, produce manager at Tidal Creek, organic spinach is different and not subject to a recall, because it is grown, treated and processed with a stricter code of rules and regulations.

Staff at the organic food market said, the reason why dozens have gotten ill was because of the growing and processing of regular spinach.

"Most of the mixed greens and baby spinach come from California," said Ramsey. "It was all packed in the same facility that packs for dozens of different brand names. It's all the same spinach."

Organic vegetables are grown in composted manure which prevents E.coli outbreaks. The temperature at which the compose is stored and processed prevents the growth of many unwanted organisms.

But organic or not, some customers just wanted to play it safe.

"I want to make sure all my food is safe," said one customer at Tidal Creek.  "So if something is recalled I'll just stay away from it for a while."

According to CDC data, E.coli infects some 73,000 Americans each year, killing 61. Most healthy adults recover from the disease within a week.

Reported by Kelli O'Hara