updated 10/10/2006 10:10:09 PM ET 2006-10-11T02:10:09

California lettuce recalled over E. coli fears tested negative for a sometimes deadly strain of the bacteria, company officials said Tuesday.

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The Nunes Company Inc. of Salinas, Calif., said multiple samples from among the more than 8,500 cartons of recalled green leaf lettuce tested negative for pathogenic E. coli O157:H7. That strain is the same responsible for the E. coli outbreak linked to spinach that killed three people and sickened 199 others.

The company ordered the voluntary recall after irrigation water tested positive for E. coli. Follow-up testing of water samples determined it wasn't the pathogenic strain of the bacteria.

"We are relieved that all results were negative, and we are confident our product is safe," company president Tom Nunes said in a statement.

The Food and Drug Administration also is testing company irrigation water. The results should be available late Wednesday or Thursday.

The Nunes Company is based in California's Salinas Valley, the agricultural region at the center of the contaminated-spinach outbreak.

By Monday, Nunes reported it had tracked down all but 250 cartons of the recalled lettuce, distributed under the Foxy brand. The lettuce had been distributed throughout Arizona, California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

E. coli can be found in animal and human feces. It can be transmitted to produce through contaminated water and inadequate hygiene on the farm or packing plant, and by animals wandering onto fields.

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