- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Less than a week after the Food and Drug Administration lifted its warning on fresh spinach grown in California’s Salinas Valley, a popular brand of lettuce grown there has been recalled over concerns about E. coli contamination.

The lettuce does not appear to have caused any illnesses, Salinas-based Nunes Co. Inc. said.

The company yesterday initiated a voluntary recall of green leaf lettuce purchased last week under the Foxy brand name. Foxy is one of the nation’s largest suppliers of lettuce, celery, broccoli, vegetable platters and stir-fry mixes.

The recall covered lettuce purchased in grocery stores Tuesday through Friday in Arizona, California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. It also was sold to distributors in those states who may have sold it to restaurants.

The recalled lettuce was packaged as “Green Leaf 24 Count, waxed carton,” and “Green Leaf 18 Count, cellophane sleeve, returnable carton.” Packaging is stamped with lot code 6SL0024.

Executives ordered the recall after learning that water used to irrigate lettuce fields may have been contaminated with E. coli, the company said. E. coli can proliferate in uncooked produce, raw milk, unpasteurized juice, contaminated water and meat.

Vice President Tom Nunes Jr. and attorney Brett R. Harrell did not respond yesterday to phone calls and an e-mail seeking comment.

FDA spokeswoman Julie Zawisza said the agency is aware of the voluntary recall but had no details.

“As a standard course of action, we would expect the firm to identify the source of the contamination and take steps to … ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” Ms. Zawisza wrote in an e-mail Sunday.

It is not clear whether any bacteria in the Salinas Valley lettuce fields could have come from the same source as the E. coli found in spinach that has sickened nearly 200 people and has been linked to three deaths nationwide.

Pathogenic Escherichia coli bacteria, or E. coli, may cause diarrhea and bloody stools. Although most healthy adults recover within a week without long-term side effects, some people may develop a form of kidney failure.

That illness is most likely to occur in children, seniors and people with compromised immune systems. In extreme cases, it can lead to kidney damage or death.

The recall at Nunes Co., a family-owned business with more than 20,000 acres of cropland in Arizona and California, comes days after federal agents searched two Salinas Valley produce companies connected to the nationwide spinach scare.

Epidemiologists also warned consumers this past week to stay away from some bottled carrot juice after a Florida woman was paralyzed and three persons in Georgia experienced respiratory failure, apparently because of botulism poisoning.

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