(Dec. 11) Yet again it appears that a foodborne illness may be been linked to spinach grown in the U.S.

This time, however, California growers dodged the bullet because the implicated savoy spinach that was determined to be exposed to salmonella was grown in Texas, said Hugh Bowman, general manager for Ippolito Fruit & Produce Ltd., Burlington, Ontario, which processed and sold the spinach in Canada.

The suspected contamination involves the company’s Queen Victoria brand of savoy spinach sold only in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. Bowman specified that the recall only involved savoy spinach and not the brand’s baby spinach.

Bowman said the company shipped the raw spinach into Canada from Texas and processed it at its Burlington facility.

“We test the raw product coming in and the finished product going out of the plant, and the results were negative on both,” he said. “My question is, ‘where in the supply chain did we fall down?’ I don’t have an answer at this point, but I feel pretty good with our sampling and what we do here.”

He would not identify which Texas grower(s) supplied the spinach, but did say it was not Pentagon Produce Inc., Uvalde, which is a major savoy spinach supplier with farms in Colorado, Arizona and Texas.

Brian Mizokami, owner and president of Pentagon, said he was aware of the recall and that his farms were not implicated.

Tiro Tres Farms, a 400-acre farm in Eagle Pass, Texas, does supply savoy spinach to Ippolito, said owner Ed Ritchie, and added that he had not been notified yet about the implicated product.

Ritchie did not know if he was the only grower-shipper who supplies savoy spinach to Ippolito.

“We heard some rumors this morning, but we don’t know the ins and outs of it,” he said Dec. 11. “We just started shipping on Nov. 29. It usually takes about four days to get there, so it would have been there about Dec. 4.”

During a routine inspection, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency discovered salmonella in bags from a retail outlet.

“Since the outbreak of last September, we have increased our sampling plan for leafy greens,” said René Cardinal, acting national manager for the fresh fruit and vegetable program with CFIA. “This was a routine sampling of five bags.”

He said Ippolito did not identify where the spinach came from other than the U.S.

“We are concentrating on the recall at this point,” he said. “That’s the most important thing, just to make sure we didn’t miss anything. Once we are confident of that, we’ll work on where it’s coming from in the U.S.”

Cardinal said the tests were conducted at CFIA’s labs Dec. 10.

“Because it was late Sunday, we had difficulty contacting the company, so we issued the health hazard notice around 9 p.m.,” he said. “We were able to get hold of the company around midnight and updated the notice.”

Ippolito announced the voluntary recall Dec. 10 of its Fresh Curly Spinach, 10 ounce/284 gram brand named Queen Victoria lot code “E1X, Best Before Date, Dec. 7, 2006 UPC 0 33383 65201 6.”

The spinach has been removed from most stores, and CFIA is continuing its investigation, Cardinal said.

Bowman said that although any remaining targeted product is most likely no longer on retail shelves, some consumers may still have it.

“From a due diligence and public safety standpoint, we decided to do a voluntary recall because if there is an issue and someone still has it in their refrigerator we wanted to make sure no one was going to eat it,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything left in the pipeline, so we’re warning the consumers.”

He said there have been no illnesses reported to date.

The company advised retailers to immediately discontinue selling any remaining product.

In July, Ippolito International LP, a subsidiary of Ippolito Group, opened a sales office in Salinas, Calif., with the intent of becoming a full-line, grower-shipper after announcing it had doubled its business in the first year of operating in the U.S.

Tim Tomasello, sales manager, said the company would ship its Queen Victoria brand from the West Coast, as well as brussel sprouts, lettuce and specialties like cilantro and bok choy.