Spinach Contaminated with E. Coli

Don’t eat bagged spinach.

Consumers nationwide should not eat fresh bagged spinach, say health officials probing a multistate outbreak of E. coli that killed at least one person and made dozens of others sick. Food and Drug Administration and state officials don’t know the cause of the outbreak, although raw, packaged spinach appears likely. “We’re advising people not to eat it,” said Dr. David Acheson of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Eight states were reporting a total of 50 cases of E. coli, Acheson said Thursday.

The death occurred in Wisconsin, where 20 people were reported ill, 11 of them in Milwaukee. The outbreak has sickened others — eight of them seriously — in Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah. In California, state health officials said they were investigating a possible case there. The outbreak has affected a mix of ages, but most of the cases have involved women, Acheson said. Further information on the person who died wasn’t available.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Wisconsin health officials alerted the FDA about the outbreak at midweek. Preliminary analysis suggested the same bug is responsible for the outbreak in all eight states.

The warning applied to consumers nationwide because of uncertainty over the origin of the tainted spinach and how widely it was distributed. Health officials did not know of any link to a specific growing region, grower, brand or supplier, Acheson said.


E. coli causes diarrhea, often with bloody stools. Most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, although some people — including the very young and old — can develop a form of kidney failure that often leads to death.

Anyone who has gotten sick after eating raw packaged spinach should contact a doctor, officials said. Other bagged vegetables, including prepackaged salads, apparently are not affected. In general, however, washing all bagged vegetables is recommended. Thorough cooking kills the bacterium.

“We’re telling people if they have bagged produce and they feel like it’s a risk, throw it out,” Michigan Department of Community Health spokesman T.J. Bucholz said. “If they feel like they have to eat it, wash it first in warm water.”

Well, you’d think consumers would be entitled to a refund rather than asked to throw the product out.

Bagged and fresh-packed spinach is one of the staples of the Joyner family diet; we eat it 2-3 times a week. I’m sure we’re on the high end of the range but there must be, what, a million servings of spinach eaten daily in the US? A total of 50 cases nationwide is an incredibly low percentage.

In any case, it appears Popeye was on to something: Canned spinach is the way to go until they figure this one out.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    Fresh is the only way I can stand to eat spinach. After years of my childhood resisting the cooked kind <gag> because it’s so <gag> vile, I was surprised and pleased to discover that fresh spinach is neither slimy nor evil-tasting.

    Rceently I’ve actually had spinach twice in as many weeks, and I think my digestion is actually healthier.

  2. Mark says:

    I prefer the frozen packets you boil to heat up.

  3. Spinach is evil.

  4. Bandit says:

    You’ve got to steam it and not overcook it – then it’s great – I just had a big bag the other night

  5. DC Loser says:

    I love it stir fried with garlic. Only problem is that spinach is bad for my gout, so I can only enjoy it sparingly.

  6. It’s still good for you, but the bagging habit is not. This is one of the products it is easy to get fresh. And if you use the leaves for salad, make the dressing yourself. Standards.

  7. Wickedpinto says:

    it isn’t “don’t eat bagged spinach” it’s “don’t eat bagged ORGANIC spinach”

    Theres a reason that the most prosperous, the longest lifespan nations on the face of the planet have the most manipulated, and the most treated food.

    The organic farmers of the spinach didn’t pre-treat the cow turds they used as fertilizer.