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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Click here

Spinach--Organic Contamination from California

Please click on any of the links below to hear more information:

COMMENT: My brother Lynn had a question as to whether E. coli could
possibly be INSIDE the spinach plant rather than on the outside where it
could be washed off?! HE WAS RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!! The e-coli is INSIDE the
contaminated spinach. This is why manures should NEVER be used to
fertilize leafy greens crops.
Consumers should throw away any fresh packaged spinach they may have
bought in the past few weeks and not buy more until the warning is
lifted, the agency said. It also said that washing the spinach won't
help because the bacteria is too tightly attached.

The states reporting cases of illness are: California, Connecticut,
Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New
Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia,
Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. See:


The affected products were also distributed to Canada and Mexico, the
FDA said.

Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer of the FDA's Center for Food
Safety and Applied Nutrition, told a Sunday night press conference that
all the 109 victims were infected with the strain of E. coli 0157:H7,
CNN reported. Of them, 55 were hospitalized, 16 with a form of kidney
failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Acheson said the number of reported cases could increase Monday, when
public health departments, many of which were closed over the weekend,

The dead woman in Wisconsin was identified as Marion Graff, of
Manitowoc. Her son said she died of kidney failure Sept. 7. Wisconsin
has reported 29 cases statewide so far.
"We are very, very upset about this," Natural Selection Foods
spokeswoman Samantha Cabaluna told the AP. "What we do is produce food
that we want to be healthy and safe for consumers, so this is a tragedy
for us."

The company has supplied a phone number - l-800-690-3200 - for a refund
or replacement coupons.

The FDA said the first cases of infection apparently surfaced on Aug.
23, and the most recent one was reported Sept. 3. But it wasn't until
last Wednesday that the agency was able to identify bagged spinach as
the possible cause.

Brackett cautioned that anyone who believes he or she has the symptoms
of E. coli poisoning should contact a doctor.

According to the CDC, E. coli lives in the intestines of cattle and
other animals and is linked to contamination by fecal material. It can
be found in undercooked meats and other foods, such as spinach, sprouts,
lettuce, unpasteurized milk and juice.

The primary symptom of E. coli contamination in humans is diarrhea,
often with bloody stools. While most adults recover completely, the
bacteria is particularly harmful to the very young, the very old, and
those with compromised immune systems. In more serious cases,
potentially fatal kidney failure can develop.

E. coli causes an estimated 73,000 cases of infection, including 61
deaths, each year in the United States, according to CDC statistics.

Researchers say deadly bacteria may be in, not on, spinach
Cox News Service
Tuesday, September 19, 2006

WASHINGTON - Potentially deadly E. coli bacteria can contaminate edible
parts of plants like spinach and lettuce through water absorbed by the
plants' roots, scientists said Monday as federal officials reported that
a new outbreak of the bacteria continues to spread.

The scientists' findings means that no amount of rinsing or careful
handling can keep the E. coli out of salads and other foods in which raw
vegetables are used if the pathogen is in, rather than on, plant leaves.
It also poses new challenges for farmers seeking to ensure that their
crops remain free of the contaminant.

More than 100 persons have fallen ill in recent days and one died after
eating raw spinach contaminated with the O157:H7 strain of E. coli,
according to Food and Drug Administration officials. A second death, of
a person in Ohio, was being studied to see if it also was linked to the

In a telephone briefing Monday evening, Dr. David Acheson of the FDA's
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition said the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention had linked 114 cases of E. coli poisoning
in 21 states to raw spinach. The states with the largest number of cases
were Wisconsin with 32, Utah with 15 and Ohio with 10.

Three-fourths of the victims were women, which Acheson said probably
resulted from the fact that women eat more raw spinach than men.

Acheson said FDA food safety investigators were visiting farms in
California on Monday in an effort to determine what caused the

He said the FDA had concluded that "there is nothing in the
epidemiology to consider this deliberate." He would not estimate the
likelihood that the agency would ever know its precise cause.

He urged farmers to adhere to the agency's recommended "Good
Agricultural Practices" as the best way to prevent E. coli contamination
of fresh vegetables.

Following 19 other E. coli-related food-poisoning outbreaks since 1995,
the FDA created a Lettuce Safety Initiative establishing stricter
inspections of that farm industry. The initiative has been extended to
spinach following the current outbreak.

Asked why spinach wasn't covered to begin with, Acheson said the agency
had "focused our resources on the food ... for which we had seen the
biggest problem."

If the E. coli pathogen is found to be inside the plant leaves, that
might have serious implications for the burgeoning organic foods

Scientists at Rutgers University reported four years ago that they had
shown that quantities of the bacteria sufficient to cause disease can be
present in - rather than on - the plants' leaves.

"I am concerned from the findings that we have," said Karl Matthews, a
microbiologist. "You can't wash the organism away from the crop. Even if
it's washed several times, you're not actually washing away the

After growing lettuce in soil that had been deliberately inoculated
with E. coli O157:H7, Matthews washed the leaves in bleach but still
found the bacteria inside the plant tissues.
He and other researchers concluded that the pathogen had clearly
traveled to edible parts of the lettuce through the roots.

He said the research was not designed to determine how much
contamination could have occurred, but whether it could happen at all.
Even so, he said, in some cases the amount of E. coli found in the
leaves was sufficient to cause disease.

In 2004 and 2005, the FDA's top food safety official told California
farmers that they should do more to protect crops from the floodwaters
that periodically strike the central Salinas Valley, the Associated
Press reported. The waters are known to be subject to E. coli

"In light of continuing outbreaks, it is clear that more needs to be
done," the FDA's Robert Brackett wrote in a Nov. 4, 2005, letter, the AP
said. Suggested actions included discarding any produce that comes into
contact with floodwaters.

Western Growers, a group representing 3,000 growers and shippers in
California and Arizona said the new Lettuce Safety Initiative was not a
response to any particular incident, and that "the basic standard for
the industry is zero tolerance," said Tim Chelling, a spokesman.

No one has shown that organically produced vegetables are likely to be
more vulnerable to this form of contamination than conventionally grown

However, organic crops are nourished not with chemical fertilizer but
with material that contains animal manure, usually the source of E.

Federal regulations adopted for organic foods prohibit application of
raw animal manure to crops within 120 days of harvest if the edible
portion comes into contact with the manure. Raw manure is not allowed
within 90 days of harvest of any food crop.
However, these regulations determine only whether a farmer qualifies
for the Department of Agriculture "organic food," seal and are not
enforced by food safety officials. Instead, private organizations
approved by the department visit farms and "certify" them for the seal.

A California company that has been at the center of an outbreak of E.
coli poisoning in raw spinach produces an organic line of fresh

The company, Natural Selection Foods of San Juan Bautista, Calif., has
recalled fresh spinach and products containing fresh spinach, and the
FDA has advised against eating any fresh spinach until further notice.

Jeff Nesmith is a correspondent for Cox Newspapers.

Victual Ablutions
Should we bother washing our fruits and veggies?
By Daniel Engber
Posted Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2006, at 6:04 PM ET

Spinach contaminated with a dangerous strain of E. coli has made 114
people sick so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. Produce consumers have been advised to stay away from all
fresh spinach-even a careful washing won't get rid of the bacteria.
Wait, does washing fruits and vegetables do any good at all?

Probably. Food safety experts say that a thorough rinsing can reduce
the number of microorganisms on fresh produce by about 90 percent.
(Commercial "vegetable wash" products don't seem to do much better.) The
water won't clean off the remainder of the bacteria, which are either
nestled in grooves on the vegetable's surface or bound to it by
interacting electric charges (See:
If the bacteria have been present long enough, they can start to form a
"biofilm"-a slimy matrix that makes them even tougher to wash off.
(See: )
The cleaning of vegetables is measured in "log reductions," which
correspond to successive 90-percent decreases in the number of bacteria
present. When you wash a tomato in the sink, for example, you've
performed about one log reduction in microorganisms. By comparison,
low-acid canned goods frequently undergo a 12-log reduction of deadly C.

A single-log reduction can help reduce the risk of illness from certain
kinds of bacteria, especially if they start out in very low numbers. But
it won't help very much with the contaminated spinach. The strain of E.
coli in question can make people ill even in very tiny numbers-as few as
10 or 20 cells will do the trick. If your leaf of spinach started with
fewer than 100 E. coli bacteria, you could get it down to safe levels
with a single washing. But it's likely to have many, many more. A single
speck of manure might contain a million E. coli cells. (You'd need at
least a five-log reduction to take that many cells down to a safe
QUESTION: What is E. coli O157:H7-the E. coli in question with

ANSWER: E. coli O157:H7 is a bacterium that causes diarrhea that is
often bloody; the diarrhea can be accompanied by abdominal cramps. Fever
may be absent or mild. Symptoms usually occur within 2-3 days following
exposure, but may occur as soon as 1 day following exposure or up to one
week following exposure. Healthy adults can typically recover completely
from E. coli O157:H7 exposure within a week. However, some people,
especially young children and the elderly, can develop Hemolytic Uremic
Syndrome (HUS) as a result of exposure to E. coli O157:H7, a condition
that can lead to serious kidney damage and even death. E. coli
0157:H7 has been responsible for many outbreaks:

# 2006 -- 2006 North American E. coli outbreak. E. coli O157:H7 in
bagged spinach packaged by Natural Selection Foods and most likely
supplied by Earthbound Farm in San Juan Bautista. 1 dead, and over 170
people sickened by the outbreak across 25 US States [3]

# 2002 E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef from ConAgra. 19 people became
ill in California, Colorado, Michigan, South Dakota, Washington and
Wyoming as a result of eating tainted hamburger from a ConAgra plant in
Greeley, Colorado. The company recalled over 19 million pounds of ground
beef it had manufactured, in the third largest recall in history. [5]

# 1997 E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef from Hudson Foods Company of
Rogers, Arkansas. Burger King was the largest client. The plant was in
Columbus, Nebraska. The company recalled over 25 million pounds of
ground beef it had manufactured, in the second largest recall in

# 1996 E. coli O157:H7 in unpasteurized apple juice from Odwalla.[9]

# 1993 E. coli O157:H7 in undercooked hamburgers from Jack in the Box.
Four people died and hundreds of others became sick in the Seattle area
and other parts of the Pacific Northwest.


Washing has more of an effect in cleaning off "spoilage bacteria."
These microbes generally won't make you sick, but they'll reduce the
shelf life of your veggies. A thorough washing and drying can make a
head of lettuce last a little longer before it rots. It might also rinse
off some pesticide residue. There's disagreement over the health risks
posed by this residue. The British Food Standards Agency endured fierce
criticism when in concluded in 2002 that fruits and vegetables need not
be washed to remove pesticide. (The agency did concede that food should
be washed on "hygiene grounds.")

Under some conditions
( ), washing can be
counterproductive. A pressure gradient may form if there's a big
difference in temperature between the fruit or vegetable and the water
being used to wash it. Cold water can be pulled inside warmer
produce-along with potentially harmful bacteria. Water baths can also
lead to cross-contamination among pieces of produce. Farmers and
packagers often use chlorinated water to reduce this risk.

Answers In The War On Bacteria From Plants
09 Sep 2006

Back-to-back scientific papers are offering a revolutionary look at the
battlefield on which plant diseases are fought and often lost to
The laboratory of Sheng Yang He at Michigan State University has
changed the textbook description of a plant's surface terrain and is
unveiling new knowledge of how bacterial pathogens invade plants and
take hold. The most recent paper, published in the Sept. 8 edition of
Cell, redefines the role of the plant's pores in defense against
invading bacteria and how some bacteria can overpower plants.

Last month, in Science Magazine, the lab outlined a better
understanding of how bacteria set up camp and destroy the plant's
ability to fight infection.

The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S.
Department of Energy and supported by the Michigan Agricultural
Experiment Station.

"We've known for 100 years that bacterial pathogens cause illness in
crops, yet we still don't understand how they produce disease," said He,
a professor of plant biology, plant pathology, and microbiology and
molecular genetics. "It's very frustrating. How does this little thing
do such great damage to plants?"

But this summer, Maeli Melotto, a research associate, and Bill
Underwood, a graduate student, in He's laboratory, shed light on the
behavior of one the plant's first lines of defense against disease.
Pores called stomata are like tiny mouths that open and close during
photosynthesis, exchanging gases. In sunshine, the stomata open. In
darkness, they close to conserve water.

It has been assumed that these tiny ports were busy with their
photosynthesis business and were merely unwitting doorways to invading
bacteria on a plant's surface. Melotto and Underwood, however, have
discovered that stomata are an intricate part of the plant's immune
system that can sense danger and respond by shutting down.

The lab performed experiments on Arabadopsis, a common laboratory
plant, but the mechanisms could be universal across all land plants.

"When we started looking more closely, and put bacteria on a plant
surface, stomata close. It's like they say 'oh, we have to close the
doors!'" Melotto said. "Even if it is in bright daylight, when the
stomata are supposed to be open, they close."

Some bacteria have gotten smarter. Melotto and Underwood found that
plants recognized human-infecting bacteria, such as E. coli, and kept
the stomata closed to them. Plant-infecting bacteria, like those most
destructive to crops, have figured out a way to reopen the shut-down

It appears those plant-based bacteria produce a phytotoxin, a chemical
called coronatine, to force the pores back open. For bacteria, entry is
crucial to causing disease and probably survival. They could die if left
lingering on the surface. Animal-based bacteria do not produce

"Now that we know a key step in bacteria's attack, we have something we
can learn to interfere with," Melotto said. "From this we can learn
about disease resistance."

It's a weighty issue. Bacterial diseases can be catastrophic to crops.
One disease, called fire blight, did $40 million in destruction to
Michigan apple trees in 2000 alone and all but eliminated commercial
pear crops in Michigan for that year.

He also sees useful human health implications. Understanding that
animal pathogens, like dangerous E. coli, cannot easily gain access
inside the plant helps scientists know how to best combat bacteria that
cause food borne illness. It is important to know, he explained, whether
food borne illnesses rest on the surface of an edible plant, or nestle
inside, impervious to washing.

"We are thinking about the mysteries of plant pathologies, but these
have broad implications," He said. "We haven't understood very well how
plants and bacteria interact, but we're finally seeing the light."

Sheng Yang He
Michigan State University

Article URL:

Search narrows for tainted spinach
Investigators trace 2 bags as possible source; number of sickened at
David Paul Morris

SAN FRANCISCO - Test results linking two bags of Dole brand baby
spinach to a deadly E. coli strain have helped health officials hone in
on a specific batch from a San Juan Bautista processing plant that may
be the source of a nationwide outbreak.

The investigation remains focused on Natural Selection Foods LLC, which
officials believe packaged the tainted spinach for Dole and dozens of
other brands. They're looking specifically at nine farms in three
California counties that supplied the company with leafy greens.

Both tainted bags - one found in Utah over the weekend and the other in
New Mexico earlier last week - were processed during the same shift on
Aug. 15 at Natural Selection's plant, said Dr. Kevin Reilly, deputy
director of prevention services for the California Department of Health

"We are looking very aggressively at what was produced on that date,"
Reilly said Monday. "Much of the feedback we got from patients right now
was related to Dole packaging."

Pennsylvania health officials said Tuesday a bag of Dole baby spinach
purchased there was also tied to the deadly E. coli strain. A lab
identified the strain in a sample of spinach purchased on or around
Sept. 8 in western Pennsylvania.

About two dozen cases have yet to be confirmed as related to the
spinach outbreak. West Virginia health officials said Tuesday they
confirmed that a 71-year-old man there was sickened by the strain of E.
coli linked to spinach.

"We probably are seeing the tail end of the outbreak," said Howard
Backer, California's acting public health officer. "Partly as a result
of spinach being taken off from the market, there is not ongoing

The E. coli outbreak from spinach has sickened at least 175 people, the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Monday. More than half - 93 -
were hospitalized, including a 77-year-old Wisconsin woman who died.

Two other deaths have been reported in suspected cases - a child in
Idaho and an elderly woman in Maryland - but those cases still are being

In addition to Dole, Natural Selection Foods has recalled more than 30
brands, including President's Choice, Ready Pac, Trader Joe's, Nature's
Basket and Premium Fresh.
It was too soon to say whether any other brands besides Dole would turn
out to have been contaminated, he added. Calls to Dole's headquarters in
Westlake Village were not returned Monday.

Although the FDA has recommended that people not eat fresh, raw
spinach, it said Friday that spinach grown anywhere outside California's
Salinas Valley is safe to eat.

New safety guidelines

Salinas Valley farmers and growers were developing new food safety
guidelines they need to have approved by the FDA before the agency lifts
its consumer warning on locally grown and packaged spinach.

"At this point, there is not a finalized proposal, but I know there is
a lot of effort going forward with that right now," Reilly said Monday.

Over the weekend, two companies in the Pacific Northwest voluntarily
recalled some of their products because they may contain spinach
supplied by Natural Selection.

Seattle-based Triple B Corp. recalled salad products distributed to
retail stores and delis in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana that
had "use by" dates of Aug. 22 through Sept. 20.

Pacific Coast Fruit Company, based in Portland, Ore., recalled salad
and pizza that may have been made with spinach supplied by Natural
Selections. The products were distributed in Alaska, Oregon, Washington
and Idaho.

The 26 states that have reported E. coli infections since the
spinach-linked outbreak was identified last month are Arizona,
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky,
Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New
York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington,
West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Spinach is Easy to Grow at Home
October 14, 2006
Mary Heidbrink
Express-News Staff Writer

Although packaged spinach from California has been declared safe to eat again, growing it in your own backyard can provide the kind of peace of mind that doesn't come in a bag. With a little information and care, even those with thumbs that are any color but green can cultivate enough for their family's enjoyment.
Horticulturist Jerry Parsons says this is the perfect time of year to grow spinach in San Antonio. It's a cool-weather crop that loves our alkaline soil.
Spinach has been scarce in fresh produce aisles due to an E. coli outbreak that made 200 people sick and killed three. The problem spinach was traced to an organic farm in California, but such a situation is unlikely to happen in a home garden as long as sterilized organic or commercial fertilizers are used and animal manure is avoided.
"Anytime you fertilize with manures, you stand the chance of getting E. coli on the foliage of any leafy greens," Parsons says. Using compost from a home-composting bin is fine as long as no animal manure is added to the pile.
Because it's hard to germinate spinach seeds, it's best to start with transplants, which will be available in area nurseries within the next few weeks. Look for disease-resistant Coho, a semi-Savoy spinach with crinkled leaves developed specifically for our climate.
Parsons says transplants can be planted anywhere there is a bit of space - in flower gardens, hanging baskets or patio containers - in sun or shade.
Another method worth a try is Square-Foot Gardening. Mel Bartholomew developed the system in the 1980s after shunning traditional row growing as wasteful and too labor-intensive. The square-foot system is based on growing in a box divided into areas of one-foot squares filled with 6 inches of soil. Crop rotation and soil quality is emphasized.
Tom Harris, a local master gardener certified to teach Square-Foot Gardening, says spinach is the perfect crop to grow with the method.
Harris says soil should be made from two parts compost, one part peat moss and one part coarse vermiculite, which is available at garden centers. Using four, 12-inch by 9-inch planters, which can be built with scrap lumber, plant nine plants 3 inches apart. Water the transplants by hand weekly, but don't let the containers sit in water that has drained through the pot. This can rot the roots.
Let the transplants grow for about two weeks and then start harvesting the outer leaves, leaving the center of the plant to keep producing. This will ensure a steady supply of spinach for a family of four through the winter.
Slugs, snails and pill bugs can be taken care of with baits used every few weeks.
Spinach is easy to grow, nutritious and safe, so growing your own is worth a try and just might lead to other homegrown vegetables on your dinner table.