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Farr: Wild pigs to be tested For E. coli

October 3, 2006

KSBW - Salinas, CA, USA

SALINAS, Calif. -- Investigators trying to get to the source of the spinach E. coli problem will turn their attention to wild pigs.

At a news conference in Salinas on Tuesday, Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, said federal investigators will try to capture wild pigs and test them for the E. coli strain that killed one person and sickened dozens of others across the country.

"We'll be looking at soils and even animals. The USDA is going to be capturing wild pigs this weekend and testing them for E. coli," Farr said.

But Farr cautioned consumers that the source of the E. coli problem might never be found.

Meanwhile, growers are getting their spinach back on the market.

Ocean Mist Farms of Castroville has started harvesting spinach again.

It's been four days since the ban on local spinach was lifted but demand for the product is still low.

On Tuesday, a Food and Drug Administration official said the agriculture industry must do more to correct the problem if they want to restore consumer confidence.

But Farr said local agriculture has set the gold standard for safe practices, and he said maybe the FDA needs to change its protocol and do a better job at pinpointing a problem instead of bringing an entire industry to its knees.

"When you have an airline accident, it's tragic, people lose lives, but not an entire industry shut down. When you have an automobile recall not every car stops running, so it's how do you hone this in and match it to the problem," Farr said.

Lawmakers are discussing a possible marketing campaign with growers and shippers in an effort to regain consumer confidence.

State officials said several farms implicated in the E. coli outbreak do have cows on them and that E. coli samples taken from the fields have been connected to the cattle.

But it's unknown if it's the same strain that's responsible for the outbreak.

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