Citing Earthbound Farm’s strength in the organic category and its response to a 2006 E. coli outbreak, Ernst & Young has awarded chief executive officer Charles Sweat its Entrepreneur of the Year award for Northern California in the food products category.

Sweat joined the San Juan Bautista, Calif., company in 1998 as chief financial officer. He became president in 2006 and chief executive officer in 2009.

He received the award June 25 in San Jose, Calif., according to a news release.

“Despite a crisis that might have driven many companies out of business, Charles Sweat has led Earthbound Farm to reinvent food safety and earn the distinction as the largest grower of organic salad greens in the nation,” according to a notice in the Ernst & Young Smart Business supplement.

Natural Selection Foods, which once marketed the Earthbound Farm brand, was among the companies implicated in the 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak. It later dissolved.

“(The award) is really a well-deserved recognition of the good, hard work that the entire Earthbound Farm team has done to further our mission of bringing the benefits of organic food to as many people as possible,” Sweat said in the release.

As the Northern California winner, he is a candidate for Ernst & Young’s national award, to be given Nov. 12 in Palm Springs, Calif.

Past national winners in various categories included Howard Schultz of Starbucks Coffee Co.; Pierre Omidyar of eBay; Ruth Fertel of Ruth’s Chris Steak House; Maxine Clark of Build-a-Bear Workshop; Tom Adams of Rosetta Stone; and Matt Szulik of Red Hat.