Magazine article Risk Management

Dirty Spinach

Magazine article Risk Management

Dirty Spinach

Article excerpt

Bags of fresh spinach were pulled from grocery store shelves in September after it was determined that they were the source of an E. coli outbreak that would eventually lead to almost 200 illnesses and three deaths in 26 states. The outbreak was finally traced to San Juan Bautista, California-based Natural Selection Foods, which, along with five other companies it supplied, issued voluntary recalls of the contaminated product.

Despite an all-clear from the FDA after a two-week ban, spinach growers remained worried about the economic and consumer fallout from the scare. In recent years, spinach consumption had been on the rise, but after the bad publicity, would shoppers return or would growers be forced to lay off workers and plow under fields in the absence of a viable market? In California, where three-quarters of domestically grown fresh spinach is produced, it was estimated farmers could face losses of up to $74 million--almost 30% of the value of California's spinach crop in 2005--while agricultural business as a whole could see $100 million in losses. …

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