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NUMBER:   06-76 DATE:   October 12, 2006
FOR RELEASE:   IMMEDIATE CONTACT:   Mike Bowman or
http://www.dhs.ca.gov Lea Brooks
(916)-440-7660

STATE HEALTH DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES TEST RESULTS MATCH GENETIC FINGERPRINTS TO E. COLI OUTBREAK

SACRAMENTO - The California Department of Health Services (CDHS) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that test results from the field investigation of a multistate outbreak of E.coli O157:H7 in spinach are positive and have matching genetic fingerprints to the outbreak pattern.  Samples of cattle feces on one of the implicated ranches tested positive for the same strain of E. coli that sickened 199 people.

"This is a significant finding because it is the first time we linked a spinach or lettuce E.coli O157:H7 outbreak to test results from a specific ranch in the Salinas Valley," said State Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Horton. "Our follow-up investigation on this ranch is continuing today with the ongoing assessment of animal management, water systems and agricultural practices to clarify how the bacterial contamination of the spinach occurred."  

The trace-back investigation was narrowed from nine implicated ranches to four ranches. The outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 from cattle feces was identified on one of these four ranches. At this time, testing of other environmental samples from all four ranches that supplied the implicated lot of contaminated spinach is in progress. The positive test result is a significant finding, but is just one aspect of this investigation. The next step in the investigation is determining how the E. coli pathogen contaminated the spinach. These implicated fields on these four ranches located in Monterey and San Benito counties are not being used to grow any ready-to-eat produce.

This investigation is ongoing. CDHS and FDA will continue to work closely to determine the cause of the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to fresh spinach.

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