E. Coli Search Heats Up in California

Officials find E. coli in Salinas Valley; feds look for evidence in criminal investigation of producers.

California officials have found E. coli in cattle manure near farms being investigated in Salinas Valley. Investigators collected the feces from pastures as part of the search for the source of the nationwide E. coli outbreak attached to Salinas Valley spinach.

The strain is definitely E. coli O157:H7, a dangerous strain, but officials are retesting the samples to confirm that the strain found in the manure matches the genetic makeup of the strain that sickened 192 people and caused one death.

Meanwhile, Wednesday morning FBI and Food and Drug Administration agents raided the offices of California producers Natural Selection Foods and Growers Express. Federal agents served search warrants and searched facilities as for the first time the hunt for the source of the E. coli outbreak intensified into a criminal investigation.

Criminal investigators say they have indications that someone may have intentionally ignored safety policies. Natural Selection chief operating officer Charles Sweat insists that the contamination originated in the fields and not the company's facilities, citing earlier government tests that found no E. coli there.

It is unclear how Growers Express, which was not listed on the FDA recall list, might be involved.

On Friday, the FDA lifted its warning about all spinach, including those originating in the parts of California being investigated.

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