Pomona Restaurant Linked To Hepatitis-A Outbreak

CBS2.com, September 18, 2006

Pomona, Calif.—Three people who ate at a Pomona restaurant last month have been diagnosed with acute hepatitis A, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Monday.

Health officials are working with Senior Baja, located at 320 E. Foothill Blvd., to identify the source of the disease.

The restaurant remains open because a recent inspection by the Department of Public Health did not find an ongoing source of potential infection.

People who ate at Senor Baja in August and develop symptoms of hepatitis A before Oct. 1—including jaundice, fever, light colored stools or dark urine—should contact their doctor.

“The purpose of this alert is to identify the source of this disease cluster and to prevent additional cases of hepatitis A,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county’s public health director.

“Prompt diagnosis will allow for Immune Globulin to be given to close contacts of cases and will allow Public Health to identify and investigate cases of acute hepatitis A,” he said.

The hepatitis A virus is spread through fecal contamination of foods and drinks. Anyone who has close contact with an infected person risks acquiring the virus.

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San Francisco—The number of people sickened by an E. coli outbreak traced to tainted spinach rose to 109 on Sunday, as federal officials announced more brands recalling their products.

“This is unquestionably a significant outbreak in terms of E. coli,” said Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer with the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Natural Selection Foods LLC, the world’s largest producer of organic produce, has been linked to the infected greens, prompting a recall of 34 brands. Those brands include the company’s own labels and those of other companies that had contracts with Natural Selection, based in San Juan Bautista, Calif., to produce or package its spinach.

On Sunday, River Ranch Fresh Foods of Salinas, Calif., added to its recall spring mixes containing spinach that were sold under the labels Hy-Vee, Fresh N’ Easy, and Farmers Market, FDA officials said. All contain spinach purchased from Natural Selection, they said.

The recalls came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intervened to help in investigate the outbreak, which has killed a 77-year-old Wisconsin woman, officials said.

In Ohio, state health officials said they were investigating the death of a 23-month-old girl who was sickened by E. coli to determine whether the case was related to the outbreak. The girl’s mother said she often buys bagged spinach.

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E. coli cases linked to tainted spinach have been reported in 19 states, with Wisconsin reporting the most.

Other states reporting cases were California, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming, according to the CDC. The seven new cases reported Sunday were in states with previous illnesses, Acheson said.

The Food and Drug Administration continued to warn consumers not to eat fresh spinach or products containing fresh spinach until further notice.

The investigation by the FDA and the California Department of Health Services will widen Monday with the aim of tracing the spinach to individual farms, Acheson said.

The inquiry will review irrigation methods, harvest conditions and other practices at farms possibly involved.

The spinach could have been contaminated in the field or during processing. About 74 percent of the fresh market spinach grown in the U.S. comes from California, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

There is no indication that the outbreak was deliberate, Acheson said. It was unclear when it would be safe for consumers to start buying fresh spinach, he added.

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Boiling contaminated spinach can kill the bacteria, but washing won’t eliminate it, the CDC warned.

Federal officials stressed that the bacteria had not been isolated in products sold by Natural Selection, best known for the Earthbound Farm brand. As the investigation continues, other brands may be implicated, officials said.

Natural Selection officials have said they’re working with federal and state health inspectors to pinpoint the source of the contamination.

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