Spinach Causing E.Coli Contamination

SEPTEMBER 15, 2006 -- POSTED AT 10:30 P.M. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- Local grocery shoppers are taking precaution after the Food and Drug Administration recently advised people until further notice to stop eating bagged spinach, as numerous cases of E.Coli have been linked to the food.

"You just have to be careful with fresh produce and fruits, and wash them carefully," says Barbara Brinkley, a Jonesboro grocery shopper.

But that's not always the best safety precaution. The FDA says washing the spinach may not be the cure to the sometimes fatal bacteria. Virginia Armstrong works in the food industry and said she definitely knows this is something customers will be concerned with.

"I work in a restaurant, so I know that E.Coli is really bad. It's not something that people would want to eat," says Armstrong.

She also was a little surprised to hear that it came from spinach.

"I was shocked because we eat it all the time at my house," says Armstrong.

So far, Kentucky is the tenth state in the U.S. to report cases of E.Coli contamination. The State of Wisconsin has seen the most cases so far, with 20 already confirmed and even one death. An FDA official told reporters in a conference call that they fear it's spreading quickly.

"It's increasing by the day. All I can say is that I don't know. We may be at the peak, we may not," says a FDA representative.

The E.Coli outbreak has some wondering just how severe the contamination can be. Doctors say it causes diarrhea that can be bloody. At worst, it even can cause a form of kidney failure.

"Most organisms such as E.Coli you have to consume in large quantities to make you sick. What sets this one apart is that you only have to consume small quantities to make you sick," says Dr. Roger Clemens with the USC School of Pharmacy.

We called around to several grocery stores in the area to see what they were doing with the bags of spinach. Kroger, Bill's Fresh Market, Hays, Country Mart, and Wallace and Owens all reported that they had removed all bags from the shelves. Wal-Mart stores nationwide removed the bags late Thursday night and even programmed the registers to reject the food item.