Spinach E. coli outbreak worries local restaurant patrons

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September 18, 2006

Eating your vegetables is supposed to make you healthy, not sick...but the entire country is still under an FDA warning against eating fresh spinach.

Bagged spinach is blamed for a nationwide E. coli outbreak that has sickened people in 21 states.

The contaminated spinach has now been linked to a second death: a 23-month-old baby girl in Ohio.

"I heard about it today at work," said Augusta resident Katie Stevens. "A girl said, 'Did you hear about the spinach recall?' And I didn't know she was serious."

But she was. The FDA nationwide warning against eating fresh spinach is still in effect...and for local restaurants, the recall is no laughing matter.

"Serving food is our livelihood, and one case of someone being sick is enough for the health department to shut you down," said Steven Green, assistant manager of the Boll Weevil.

So out went boxes and boxes of spring mix salad that contained fresh spinach.

"Thankfully that is kept by itself, so there was no worry of cross contamination," Green said.

Customers were also warned about the E. coli threat.

"I came over here the other day to Boll Weevil and saw the sign saying we couldn't eat fresh spinach," said Dr. Matthew Lawson of Augusta.

For now, no salads with spring mix lettuce and no spinach salads are available. Frozen spinach is okay according to the FDA, but Barb Nicholas isn't taking any chances.

"There was an entree I was going to order, but it had spinach in it, so I decided not to," she told News 12.

And Pixie Frank agrees.

"We hear about these kinds of warning all the time and become complacent," she said. "But when someone's death is involved, I listen to the warning...and this one scared me. I am not going to eat any spinach for a long time. No. No way."

The Boll Weevil expects to get a fresh shipment of spinach tomorrow cleared by the FDA.

News 12 also spoke to another local restaurant that got a new order of fresh spinach tonight, and it is already back on the menu.

Georgia and South Carolina are still not among the 21 states on the list of E. coli outbreaks, but the list continues to grow daily.

Investigators have ruled out tampering in the E. coli outbreak.