The FDA warned people not to eat bagged spinach and said washing it wouldn't solve the problem because the bacteria is too tightly attached
At least one person has died, in Wisconsin, and dozens of others have become sick from E. coli that can be traced to the vegetable.
The other states reporting outbreaks of E. coli are New York — where seven cases have been reported — Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah. In California, state health officials said they were investigating a possible case there.
The outbreak may be even bigger.
"A lot of people can get sick and not go to the doctor and not have a culture, so usually for every case we find there are anywhere from 10 to 50 more cases who didn't get sick enough to be diagnosed," Dr. Paul Cieslak, manager of the Communicable Disease Program of Oregon State Public Health Division, told CBS Radio News.
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state officials don't know the cause of the outbreak, although raw, packaged spinach appears likely.
"Throwing out the spinach is the right thing to do," said CBS News Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay.
"We have not been able to trace it to the specific product, a specific source, so we have applied a recommendation across the entire continuum," said Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, FDA's acting commissioner.
"We don't know whether we're at the early stages of it or the tail end of it. It's on-going. Currently we have eight states involved and ... who knows?" Dr. David Acheson of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, told CBS Radio News.
Massachusetts isn't one of the states affected, but Carl Stevens of CBS radio station WBZ Boston (audio) finds shoppers are passing on spinach.
"Popeye eats it right?" laughed one man at a Boston supermarket, then turning serious. "Of course, I'd avoid it. If I thought it was going to make me sick, I wouldn't buy it."
"I'll stay away from it. I won't buy it," agreed a woman shopper. "When you hear reports like that, it frightens you with all that's going on."
The outbreak has affected a mix of ages, but most of the cases have involved women, Acheson said. Further information on the person who died wasn't available.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Wisconsin health officials alerted the FDA about the outbreak at midweek. Preliminary analysis suggested the same bug is responsible for the outbreak in all nine states.
The warning applied to consumers nationwide because of uncertainty over the origin of the tainted spinach and how widely it was distributed. Health officials did not know of any link to a specific growing region, grower, brand or supplier, Acheson said.