Spinach/E. Coli FAQ

So, What’s going on with Spinach and E.Coli? It seems as if some agribusiness farms in Salinas, California have distributed Spinach tainted with the E.Coli bacteria.

Which farms? Well, none of the farms have actually come out and admitted that it was their product which were tainted, but Natural Selection Foods and River Ranch Fresh Foods have both voluntarily initiated recalls.

So I only have to worry about the Natural Selection and River Ranch Brands? No. Natural Selection supplies spinach to other companies, including Dole, O Organics, and about 30 other companies. River Ranch, in addition to getting their spinach from Natural Selection, also have recalled the Farmers Market, Hy Vee, and Fresh and Easy brands.

UPDATE: Additionally, Natural Selection has been cleared of culpability. Bah. No one has been cleared by the FDA.

Is it safe to eat Fresh Spinach? The FDA has not given any warning against fresh, unbagged spinach. However, rumor has it that Whole Foods has pulled not only bagged spinach, but fresh spinach as well.

Is it safe to eat Frozen Spinach? The FDA has not given any warning against frozen spinach and is presumed safe.

Is safe to eat spinach served at restaurants? That’s a tough question to answer. The FDA has recommended to avoid eating spinach at restaurants, but only because of a handful of businesses who used bagged spinach.

As the coverage of the spinach outbreak reaches into the panic phase, good businessfolk are unlikely to place spinach on their menus, not because the spinach is bad, but because the spinach won’t move.

Couldn’t I just cook any bagged spinach? Sure, but bacterial transfer can occur with a simple touch. Picking up tainted spinach with your bare hands can put you at risk. Likewise placing tainted spinach on counter tops, sinks, bowls, etc., will put you at risk.

What are the odds of me getting E. Coli if I’ve had spinach? Very, very low. There have been 109 of E.Coli cases reported in the past week or so. Divide that number into the amount of people who likely have eaten bagged spinach in the last week or so, and you’ll have your odds of getting E. Coli. Even if you triple or quadruple the amount of cases, you’ll still have low odds.

How did spinach get E.Coli? No one knows of yet, but the best guesses are from the fertilizer or the water in which the spinach was washed.

What are the medical ramifications of the spinach outbreak? Realistically, this is a small outbreak. The young, the elderly and the infirm are at severe risk. Everyone else is at less of a risk.

This outbreak has garnered press because it is nationwide outbreak. There are typically 60 deaths a year due to E. Coli., but rarely do we hear much about those. One of the questions that should be asked after this outbreak passes is “Why was this outbreak given so much coverage?”

What are the legal ramfications? It’s difficult to say at this point without knowing how this outbreak occured. But the best guess is that very few, if any laws were broken as there are very few, if any, laws to be broken. Any legal questions will likely be brought in civil lawsuits against any brand of bagged spinach that can proven to have contained the E. Coli bacteria that led to a consumers death and/or illness.

What are the economic ramifications? If you buy stocks, I’d short any company that sells spinach. Not only are their lost profits from 2 months worth of product being destroyed, but also the investment costs (amount of money used to buy everything from spinach seeds to the labor used) are incurred. Additionally, according to CBS news last night, some produce companies are buying back the spinach they sold to restaurants.

When can we buy bagged spinach? Unknown at this time. It is simply not enough to remove at risk product from the shelves. Companies have to know how their products became
at-risk” as to prevent it from happening again.

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