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Lawmaker wants agency to release findings on E. coli tainted Valley spinach

State officials say they will soon release results of an investigation into last year’s deadly Salinas Valley E. coli outbreak, including naming the San Benito County farm where the tainted spinach was grown, but Senator Dean Florez says consumers can’t wait any longer.

"Time is a luxury we don’t have," the senator said at a legislative hearing Monday. "We cannot wait any longer to solve this problem."

The September outbreak killed three people and sickened more than 200 nationwide. State and federal officials have traced the outbreak back to a 50-acre spinach plot. The E. coli strain identified in the contaminated spinach has been found in a nearby stream and in cattle feces and in wild pigs.

But the Department of Health Services has declined Florez’s request to release further details until the report is in its final version. It is still being reviewed by the federal Food and Drug Administration, which has aided in the inquiry.

"We believe it will be released in the coming weeks," said Jennifer Kent, associate secretary of legislative affairs at the state Health and Human Services Agency. She testified at the Senate Select Committee on Foodborne Illness, which Florez leads.

The results of the Salinas Valley investigation are likely to play a major role in several lawsuits filed on behalf of E. coli victims. Marler Clark, a Seattle law firm representing 90 plaintiffs alleged in a lawsuit that the tainted spinach was grown at a farm called Mission Organics.

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