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Health Experts Can’t Explain E. coli Outbreak

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Aired 4/19/09

California's Health Department and the Food and Drug Administration released their findings on a deadly E. coli outbreak today. The agencies say contaminated spinach came from a single farm in the Salinas Valley. But KPBS Radio's Andrew Phelps reports there are more questions than answers.

Forget about pet food -- forget peanut butter and scallions. Think back to September. California-grown spinach sickened some 200 people -- and killed three. The FDA could never figure out how the spinach got tainted with E. coli. The report says the source wasn't human. Perhaps the bug came from wild pigs who graze on the farm. It's possible cattle feces got into the water.

FDA Chief Medical Officer David Acheson: Clearly, the problem is multi-faceted. And what this emphasizes is the urgent need for research. Could we better understand how these bugs get on to produce in the first place -- and how to prevent it?

Acheson says E. coli is not going away. At this point, he says, we don't know enough about the bacteria to prevent another outbreak. For KPBS, I'm Andrew Phelps.

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