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Second company is implicated in outbreak linked to spinach

A second company in California has been implicated in the E. coli outbreak linked to spinach, the Food and Drug Administration said late Sunday, and the number of identified victims is still rising.

The New York Times reports that the newly identified company, River Ranch Fresh Foods, obtained salad that included spinach from the first company implicated, Natural Selection Foods of San Juan Bautista, Calif. The spinach that passed through River Ranch is sold under the brand names Farmers Market, Hy-Vee, and Fresh and Easy.

The federal health authorities are advising consumers not to eat fresh spinach. They said frozen spinach had not been implicated.

Some processors expose spinach to chlorine to kill E. coli, which can kill the bacteria on the leaf surface. But if the bacteria are in irrigation water they can enter the plant, and the chlorine will not reach them.

The number of reported cases of E. coli infection rose by seven on Sunday, to 109, but officials said that the real number was probably higher and that reporting was probably delayed because some health departments were not staffed on weekends. They also said they expected the number of states in which cases had been reported, 19 on Sunday, to rise. So far, 16 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious kidney complication from E. coli exposure, have been reported. One death, in Wisconsin, has been linked to the outbreak.

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