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Ippolito International LP is voluntarily recalling 1,715 cartons of bunched spinach distributed in 12 states and three Canadian provinces because the product has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

The Salinas, CA-based firm issued a press release Sept. 18 saying that "the voluntary recall is explicitly limited to 1,715 cartons" and "comes after routine random testing of bunched spinach in Michigan by the USDA Microbial Data Program, collected and analyzed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture tested positive. No illnesses have been reported to date."

The release added that "Ippolito International immediately identified the specific harvest lot and all buyers who received the product. The buyers were contacted and instructed to destroy any product remaining in inventory. No other Ippolito International products or packs are involved in this recall."

According to the release, 1,515 of the cartons were packed in the "Queen Victoria" brand and distributed to retail, foodservice and wholesale buyers in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Manitoba. The remaining 200 of the cartons were packed in the "Tubby" label and were distributed in California and New York.

The "Queen Victoria" product was packed in cardboard cartons with "Spinach" printed on the side panel, in wirebound crates or reusable plastic containers. The product was harvested Sept. 1-3, and the cartons were labeled with the following code date stickers, which can be located on the outside edge panel of the carton: 10522441 5 205 (Harvested Sept. 1), 10522451 5 205 (Harvested Sept. 2) and 10522461 5 205 (Harvested Sept. 3).

The "Tubby" product was packed in cardboard cartons with "Tubby" printed on the side panel. The cartons were labeled with the following code date sticker which can be located on the outside edge panel of the carton: 10522451 5 205 (Harvested Sept. 2).

"Food safety and public health are our foremost priorities," Butch Corda, Ippolito International's general manager, said in the release. "Conducting this voluntary recall is the right thing to do for our customers and consumers. This is a first for us, and even that is too many. We'll work diligently to minimize the likelihood of this occurring. The fresh produce industry is seeing an increase in routine testing by regulators, and that's positive -- it's showing the system is working to protect public health."

Mr. Corda told The Produce News Sept. 19 that Ippolito International is a signature member of the California Leafy Greens Products Handler Marketing Agreement and as such, "strictly adheres to the metrics that the organization has [developed] to minimize contamination."

He added, "We are subject to multiple annual audits, and Ippolito has done that and passed every one. We are confident in what we do, and our commitment to the consumer has always been our number one commitment."

Scott Horsfall, the marketing agreement's chief executive officer, told The Produce News Sept. 20 that "Ippoltio is a member" and that "it is a relatively small recall, and like a lot of the recent recalls, seems to be the result of random testing in the marketplace. It's obvious that the fact that there are no reports of illness is positive, and [the recall] seems to be a precautionary step. I think they are doing the right, prudent thing."

Concerned parties can contact Mike Rose at 619/302-3442 or Sharon McNernney at 916/708-2855 for more information.