In the first indication that there may have been a crime involved, the FBI executed search warrants at two California produce companies that handle spinach. The raids follow an E. coli outbreak that hit numerous states, killed one person and sickened nearly 200. This is pretty big news.
Agents from the FBI and theused warrants to search a Natural Selection Foods LLC plant in San Juan Bautista and a Growers Express plant in Salinas to determine whether they followed food safety procedures.
Federal health officials said early in their investigation that deliberate contamination was not suspected.
"We are investigating allegations that certain spinach growers and distributors may not have taken all necessary or appropriate steps to ensure that their spinach was safe before they were placed into interstate commerce," U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan said in a statement.
The searches were the first indication that authorities suspect a crime may have been committed in the outbreak that killed a Wisconsin woman, sickened people in 26 states and prompted the FDA to issue a two-week consumer warning on fresh spinach.
FBI spokesman Joe Schadler said authorities were investigating whether there was a criminal violation of federal environmental laws, which would be a felony.
He would not disclose what agents sought or seized at the two plants.
This is very interesting, indeed.