Karina Tsoy / Staff Reporter

On September 13, 2006, 26 U.S. states and close to 200 people were affected by the E. coli bacteria found in the store-bought spinach. Half of those infected were hospitalized with various symptoms and three deaths in total were reported. Even today, E. coli outbreaks still occur due to different food sources with cases circling back to less than two years ago affecting both the U.S. and Canada. 

E. coli bacteria infection occurs when you come into contact with human or animal waste, which usually happens through drinking or eating contaminated food. The 2006 animal waste contaminated spinach case is one of many examples.

Dole Spinach E. coli Outbreak - Food Safety News

The freshly bagged spinach was pulled from the shelves by the FDA but not before putting over 100 people in the hospital and leaving 31 of those infected with kidney failures. 

One of the most recent cases of E. coli outbreaks in the U.S. which occurred between December 18, 2020, and January 12, 2021, was caused by an unknown food source. The bacteria left 22 people in seven different states infected with half hospitalized and one fatal case. After interviewing the victims and looking over lab results, officials still couldn’t pinpoint a common source.

Between the dates of November 5 and December 10, 2019, seven of the Canadian provinces were exposed to the illness. The outbreak was linked to “Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kit” sold by the brand Fresh Express who is a popular supplier of greenery in North America. Twenty-two sick and eight hospitalized, including one kidney failure resulted due to the outbreak.

Food safety regulations have improved over time, but the E. coli bacteria is still actively infecting people through popular food sources. It is just as important today to wash your counters and hands after you have handled possible carriers of the bacteria as it was 15 years ago in 2006.

Next time you’re in the kitchen, stop and think to yourself “do those unwashed greens really belong on that clean counter?”.     


What is E. coli bacteria?

The 2006 spinach case

The unknown food source case

The salad kit case


E. coli bacteria

The contaminated spinach

The contaminated salad kit