Company recalls bagged spinach due to Salmonella

by Eric Schroeder
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SALINAS, CALIF. — Metz Fresh, L.L.C. recalled bagged spinach voluntarily after company testing found Salmonella in one sample, Metz Fresh said Aug. 28. There were no reports of illnesses or other problems related to the spinach, according to Metz Fresh.

The recall comes almost a year after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration identified spinach as the cause of E. coli outbreaks that led to 199 reports of illnesses, including three deaths, and during the same year a California Marketing Agreement designed to enhance food safety was implemented.

A positive test for Salmonella came from one sample of many on three Metz Fresh packing lines. Metz Fresh used its labeling and numbering system to track, locate and put holds on the majority of the cartons of spinach affected, which was distributed under the Metz Fresh label in both retail and food service packages distributed in the continental United States and Canada. The packages included 10-oz and 16-oz bags and 4.5-lb and 4-lb cartons. They bore the tracking codes 12208114, 12208214 and 12208314.

"As soon as we learned of the presumptive positive test, we directed all customers to hold all boxes of the spinach affected as a precaution," said Andrew Cumming, president of Metz Fresh, King City, Calif. "Now, with this positive test confirmation, there is no question that we would recall and destroy all spinach bearing these three codes."

Last October, the F.D.A. found a positive test on samples of cattle feces from one California ranch implicated in the E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak in spinach. The Western Growers Association, Irvine, Calif., responded to food safety concerns and voted to pursue a California Marketing Agreement, a State of California regulation under the authority of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Implementation of the agreement began in April of this year. It requires handlers of leafy green commodities such as spinach to accept product solely from farmers who follow specific food safety procedures, such as testing and mitigation of water, sanitation of tools, worker hygiene and washing of product. Metz Fresh signed the California Marketing Agreement. Mr. Cumming serves as an alternate board member.

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