The Seattle Times
John Funk, Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. — An elderly woman who died in late August was infected with E. coli after eating fresh spinach, bringing to three the number of people who have perished in a nationwide outbreak of the bacteria, health officials said Friday.
The woman, who was in her 80s, ate spinach contaminated with the same strain of E. coli that has sickened at least 190 other people around the country, state health officials said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the woman's death had been linked to the outbreak.
The news came a day after Idaho health officials confirmed that a 2-year-old boy had died from eating contaminated greens. Tainted spinach also killed an elderly Wisconsin woman.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration lifted a two-week consumer warning on fresh spinach. On Wednesday, the FBI searched two California produce companies for evidence of possible environmental-law violations.
Agents sifted through records for indications of whether the spinach producers skirted proper food-handling procedures.
E. coli lives in the intestines of cattle and other animals and typically is linked to contamination by fecal material. It causes an estimated 73,000 infections in the United States each year, including 61 deaths, according to the CDC.
Sources can include uncooked produce, raw milk, unpasteurized juice, contaminated water and meat, the agency said.