Wild pigs suspected in tainted spinach probe
Wild pigs may have spread deadly bacteria onto a Salinas-area spinach field, sparking an outbreak that killed three people and sickened more than 200 others nationwide, investigators said Thursday. They also said the outbreak appears to be over. No one has become ill from eating contaminated spinach since September 25. “All evidence points to this outbreak having concluded,” said Dr. Kevin Reilly of the California Department of Health Services. Reilly refused to give a location for the ranch, other than to say it is in a valley in the area of San Benito and Monterey counties.
State and federal investigators have narrowed their focus to a ranch where boars trampled fences that had hemmed in a spinach field. Samples taken from a wild pig, as well as from stream water and cattle on the ranch, have tested positive for the same strain of E. coli implicated in the outbreak, Reilly said. Still, investigators continue to look at three other ranches in the area in seeking the source of the contaminated fresh spinach.
“We are not saying this is the source at this point,” Reilly said of the ranch. Wild pigs are one “real clear vehicle” that could explain how E. coli spread from cattle on the ranch to the spinach field less than a mile away, Reilly said. The pigs could have tracked the bacteria into the field or spread it through their droppings, he said.