It’s in our salads, our sandwiches and can even be found with some of our favorite meat entrees. And lately, it has proven to be potentially deadly. Fresh spinach is a common ingredient in many popular culinary creations, but due to the recent outbreak of a dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria that has tainted many batches of the vegetable, spinach has been removed from most Americans’ menus until further notice.
According to a report by CBC news online, leafy vegetables are the number two leading cause of E. coli infections, second only to ground beef. The Los Angeles Times reported that this latest epidemic is already responsible for at least one death, as well as more than 150 cases of illness. Contaminated spinach has been discovered in 25 states thus far.
“On the day of the outbreak our vendor, Bay Cities, notified our Lead Cook, Alfredo Hoyos, of the recall,” said Roselia Zendejas, senior manager of dining services at Mills. “Alfredo immediately jumped into action and removed all spinach, fresh and frozen, from all of our facilities, which include Tea Shop, Cafe Suzie’s, Founders and Olney-Orchard Meadow.” Zendejas added that “no tainted spinach turned up at Mills. Alfredo was very quick to act and within minutes pulled all spinach from our facilities.”
Grad student Rebecca VanDeVoort said, “I am a vegetarian … at Mills, so the few scraps of food in my fridge had to become a meal. Naturally, with the salad greens, I had to use the ‘s’ word in there. What did I do? I ate them anyway.”
“Students should be careful to not consume any fresh spinach or be wary of any food service establishment offering fresh spinach right now until we are guaranteed that this outbreak has been contained and it no longer a threat to the general public,” said Zendejas.
“I read the sign in Founders Commons saying the spinach has been withheld for health reasons, and I wondered, ‘What’s wrong with the spinach?’ But personally it didn’t affect me because they still had lettuce there, and I’m not really picky about my lettuce,” said freshwoman Chaitanya Bolte.
According to Zendejas, Mills’ eating establishments have always done the best they can to maintain a sanitary eating environment for students. “I can only speak for what we do here at Mills, and what I can tell you is that we regularly talk to our staff about the importance of maintaining a clean, safe and sanitary kitchen,” Zendejas said. “Not only is it mandated by the State of California, but as food service professionals, we ensure regularly the safety of our customers by enforcing regular hand washing, hair nets on the job, keeping temperature logs to ensure food is being served at safe temperatures, and food sample logs that enable us to have samples of entrees in the event that we should experience an outbreak of any kind in any of our kitchens.” Zendejas concluded by saying that she has never seen contaminated food cause a problem here in our campus eating establishments.
“In the ten years that I have worked at Mills I am happy to say that we have not encountered this kind of situation. I really believe that we run very safe kitchens and welcome students to tour our facilities any time they please.”