Spinach may be behind E. coli outbreak, U.S. agency warns

U.S. regulators suspect bagged spinach may have caused an E. coli outbreak that has killed one person and sent 50 others to hospital in eight states.

"We are working closely with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local agencies to determine the cause and scope of the problem,” Dr. Robert Brackett, a top official at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said in a release.

The FDA said the outbreak involves the E. coli strain O157:H7, the same strain that killed six people in Walkerton, Ont., in 2000. It has advised people not to eat bagged spinach, but not identified a particular brand.

There is no indication so far that E. coli has contaminated spinach in Canada, said René Cardinal, acting national manager for fresh fruits and vegetables at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The FDA will keep the Canadian agency informed of the progress of its investigation.

The main problem appears to be in Wisconsin, where one person has died and 20 are sick.

Other states affected include Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah.

E. coli is the short term for the bacteria Escherichia coli, an umbrella term for a species of bacteria that resides in the intestines of mammals.It causes an estimated 61 deaths a year out of 73,000 cases of infection in the United States, the Centers for Disease Prevention

website says.

"Most illness has been associated with eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef. Person-to-person contact in families and child care centers is also an important mode of transmission. Infection can also occur after drinking raw milk and after swimming in

or drinking sewage-contaminated water," the site says.

Meanwhile, the CFIA warned Friday that Homestyle Garlic Croutons sold by Wendy's Restaurants in Ontario and Quebec may be contaminated with salmonella.

The affected product, Wendy's Homestyle Garlic Croutons, is sold in 14 g packages bearing the UPC 0 70200 100282 and the lot code USE BY FEB 05 07. This product has been sold at Wendy's restaurants in Ontario and Quebec.

Wendy's has recalled the product.No illnesses have been reported from the croutons, CFIA said.