The Salinas Californian reports that two Southern California outbreaks of E. coli in 2003 are finding their way back to the city of Salinas.
The first case took place in October 2003 when a group of residents at a retirement home community in Portola Valley became sick after eating raw spinach, and one of them died. An investigation by the California Department of Health Services determined the spinach was processed by River Ranch Fresh Foods, LLC, and grown on several farms in the Salinas Valley.
The second case involved Southern California restaurant chain Pat & Oscar’s, where close to 60 people fell ill with food poisoning after eating lettuce that state health officials also traced to River Ranch and Diamond Produce, also in the Salinas Valley.
River Ranch and Diamond Produce then filed claims against Monterey County in November, citing that their produce could have been contaminated by water coming from the Santa Rita Creek, which runs along the fields where the crops were harvested.
Now, Monterey County officials say the city of Salinas is responsible for the upkeep of Santa Rita Creek. Contamination can happen if flooding after rains cause overflow from the creek into area farms.
It should be noted that, even though the state health officials determined where the food came from, they have not found the source of the E. coli, said Allen Stroh, Monterey County’s director of environmental health. Litigation in these cases could take years or could be settled in a matter of months.
There have been no other E.coli outbreaks traced to Monterey County since 2003.