Raw spinach pulled from shelves, menus

E. coli outbreak leads to action in stores and restaurants.
Sunday, September 17, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:25 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

Spinach is disappearing from restaurants and stores throughout Columbia due to cases of E. coli being reported in 20 states as of Saturday.

The Food and Drug Adminis­tra­tion released a statement Thursday alerting the public to the E. coli outbreak. An updated release Saturday reported that Natural Selection Foods, a San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based company, had recalled its spinach products, but the investigation into the source of the bacteria continues.

The outbreak has made 95 people ill and caused the death of a woman in Wisconsin.

The FDA warned consumers to avoid eating spinach.

Meanwhile, Columbia grocery stores including Gerbes and Patri­cia’s Foods have pulled bagged spinach from their shelves.

“There have been no cases re­port­ed in Missouri,” said Mary Fandrey, a spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, on Friday. Bobbi Lampkins, an assistant manager of the Gerbes store on West Broadway, said her company has mandated the removal of spinach.

In addition to stores, several local restaurants have taken dishes with spinach off their menus.

“We took spinach off the menu yesterday, and we won’t put it back on until it’s OK,” said Rob Stien, the manager of Flat Branch Pub and Brewing Company on South Fifth Street. “We’re substituting iceberg lettuce for spinach if someone wants a salad.”

Matt Jenne, who owns both Addison’s and Sophia’s, said he has decided to pull spring mix lettuce mixtures, which sometimes contain spinach, from the salads.

“We do not have a spinach salad, but we are still selling salads without spinach,” Jenne said.

“We have completely pulled spinach and won’t buy it until we know for sure it’s safe,” said Paul Blackwell, the manager of Classy’s Restaurant on East Broadway. “We have thrown away all spinach in stock, and we’re not using it in spring mixes that has it in it.”

Raw bulk spinach is harvested and packaged but not washed before it is sent to distributors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site, washing spinach may not get rid of E. coli bacteria. The Web site also said that the E. coli germ can be found in produce, which may have been contaminated in the field or during processing. Exposure to the bacteria can cause symptoms such as severe cramping, diarrhea and kidney failure, which can be fatal if left untreated. Symptoms are typically worse in children than in adults. The FDA advises people who believe they may have symptoms of illness after consuming bagged spinach to contact their physician.

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