The rising incidence of E. coli caused by tainted spinach - now at 131 cases - is raising questions for the agriculture industry. The American Farm Bureau Federation's Bob Stallman says the situation demands answers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "FDA really needs to do its investigation to determine one of two things: Are different protocols needed to be put in place to prevent this from happening? Or, are protocols not being followed? Those are issues that need to be resolved."
Federal officials continue to test farms and packing plants in California to try to find an answer regarding the source of the outbreak. Some reports are pointing to water used on the crop, but officials say it will take more than a week to get findings from current investigations, and a definite answer is not guaranteed. Past outbreaks of E. coli have gone unsolved.
Intentional tampering of the crop was ruled out as a cause. Consumers have been advised not to eat any fresh spinach or salad blends containing fresh spinach. While fresh spinach is a risk, cooking the plant above 160 degrees F for 15 seconds will kill the bacteria. There are still questions about whether this outbreak is limited to surface contamination or if it is capable of making its way inside the spinach leaf, lettuce or other leafy vegetables. You can track the disease by checking out the Centers for Disease Control updates.