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Food Poisoning Health Center

Spinach & E. coli: Questions & Answers

Answers to 14 Questions About the E. coli Outbreak in Spinach
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Q. Should we worry about frozen spinach, canned spinach, or spinach baby food?

A. No.

At this time, the FDA has no evidence frozen spinach, canned spinach, or spinach in premade meals manufactured by food companies are affected. These products are safe to eat, according to the FDA.

"Frozen spinach is normally 'blanched' with hot water or steam prior to being frozen, which should be effective for destroying E. coli," Linton explains.

"The thermal process given for all low-acid foods, including baby food and canned spinach, is done at 230 [degrees Fahrenheit] or higher, where E. coli will be destroyed. E. coli is destroyed at 160-165 [degrees Fahrenheit," Linton says.

Q. Can people cook fresh spinach or salad blends containing fresh spinach?

A. The FDA currently recommends that the public not consume fresh (uncooked) spinach or salad blends containing fresh spinach. However, E. coli O157:H7 in spinach can be killed by cooking at 160 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds.

If consumers choose to cook fresh spinach, they should follow these cooking instructions and also take steps to avoid cross-contamination between the fresh spinach and other food or food- contact surfaces. They should wash hands, utensils, and surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after handling fresh spinach.

Q. Does the spinach warning apply only to bagged fresh spinach?

A. No.

Fresh spinach in this warning includes bagged spinach, spinach in plastic "clamshell" containers", and loose spinach purchased from retailers, says the FDA.

Q. Does the spinach warning apply to organic spinach as well as conventionally grown spinach?

A. Yes.

The FDA's warning applies to all fresh spinach, regardless of the growing method.

Q. What does the FDA recommend doing with fresh spinach or products containing fresh spinach that consumers may already have?

A. The FDA recommends that the product be thrown away.

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