More tainted-spinach cases confirmed

October 24, 2006|By Nicole Fuller

Maryland health officials confirmed yesterday that two more people in the state were sickened by eating spinach contaminated with E. coli during a recent nationwide outbreak, bringing the number of cases in the state to five.

Since an alert Sept. 14 prompted grocers to pull potentially tainted bagged spinach from store shelves and consumers were told to discard any bagged spinach, state officials have investigated 15 cases of possible E. coli contamination of spinach.

They have found that five of those cases are associated with spinach contamination; eight are not and two are pending, said John Hammond, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

State health authorities reported in late September that they had linked three E. coli illnesses to spinach contamination, out of 10 possible cases. Officials concluded that three were not linked, while four cases were then pending. They have investigated another five possible cases in the past few weeks, Hammond said.

State health officials have not identified the three earlier confirmed cases, except to say they were schoolchildren in Cecil and Harford counties. The family of an 86-year-old Hagerstown woman who died Sept. 13, two weeks after eating bagged spinach, said she was a victim of E. coli poisoning. Heath officials have declined to confirm that account, citing privacy laws.

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