As the nationwide toll of E coli victims linked to fresh spinach reached one dead and 192 sickened, the FBI conducted a search of two California produce companies recently.
Backed with warrants, agents of the FBI and Food and Drug Administration agents searched a Natural Selection Foods LLC plant in San Juan Bautista and a Growers Express plant in Salinas to see if they observed food safety procedures. Growers Express raises and packs produce, including Farm Day packaged spinach.
Natural Selection packages 34 brands of spinach and supplies it to other food processors. The firm was implicated in the bacteria outbreak after 11 bags of Dole brand baby spinach tested positive for the E coli strain found in victims who had eaten the product.
Charles Sweat, chief executive officer of Natural Selection, said, “We have believed from the outset that our facilities were not the source of the contamination. We have been concerned that the contamination may have originated in the fields where the product is grown.”