Health officials say that contaminated spinach which forced an 18-state recall has been traced back to California — but experts say it is difficult to say when the offending farm, or farms, will be found.
Fresh Express, which has a food processing facility in Salinas, recalled some 9-ounce bags of spinach Nov. 9 because of potential risk caused by salmonella.
The state Department of Public Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are still working with producers to track down all impacted fields, according CDPH spokesman Ronald Owens.
Brad Sullivan, a Salinas attorney who represented several growers in the aftermath of the 2006 E. coli outbreak, said the process to find the salmonella can be lengthy because there is much to check.
Investigators will likely inspect trucks that delivered the produce, farms, equipment and any other place the spinach could have become contaminated.
He said growers are especially eager to find the source.
"Not only is it bad for business," he said, "but they really do take pride" in their product.
He said investigators are open with growers throughout the inquiry, but may be hesitant to release information to the public in order not to cause a panic.
FDA spokeswoman Pat El-Hinnaway told The Herald last week the agency was limited in what it could say because it is an ongoing investigation.
Another recent spinach recall could have roots in California, according to Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in food safety law.
Wegmans recalled some organic spinach and spring mix salads for possible E.coli bacteria earlier this month.
"The timing is right for California," he said. "It seems too early for Arizona, but there could be some reason it was grown (there). It seems too late to be grown in New Jersey."
Unlike the Fresh Express recall, people have gotten sick from the Wegmans mix, according to the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, N.Y.
There have been 16 confirmed cases of E. coli in four counties in western New York that are likely from the salad mix, the paper reported.