Imported Sprout Seeds Implicated in Salmonella Outbreaks

The source of the multi-state <"">Salmonella Saintpaul Repo! The Genetic Opera film outbreak linked to fresh alfalfa sprouts has been determined, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The outbreak originated from seeds from the Caudill Seed Company of Louisville, Kentucky, reports The Packer.

The Packer reported that Caudill has withdrawn all seed batches with six-digit lot numbers starting with “032”; recalled seeds are packaged in 50-pound white bags marked with a white or yellow label with the distributor name, and were imported from Italy, said company spokesman Lyle Orwig. FDA testing did not reveal Salmonella at Caudill, but the agency identified seeds with the recalled lot numbers, said The Packer. “What they’ve said to us is the cases all led to sprouts, from multiple growers, and the common link is seeds,” said Orwig, quoted The Packer.

Orwig explained that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found consumption information from those sickened pointed to sprouts, which pointed to growers, which pointed to seeds. “That lot was a common denominator among the illnesses,” Orwig said, reported The Packer, which noted there is no evidence leading to other seed lots or sprouts. The District Chronicles recommends consumers avoid food made with sprouts purchased from restaurants and delis; hands be washed thoroughly—20 seconds—with warm water and soap before and after handling raw foods; and, if consumed, sprouts be thoroughly cooked.

According to The Packer, FDA recommendations advise retailers, restaurant operators, and foodservice facility personnel verify sprouts or seed lots with suppliers and growers follow sprout industry guidance. “If they adhere to the FDA guidance, that’ll go a long way to help prevent any similar events in the future,” said Orwig, who said he believed the outbreak could have been avoided had growers followed the guidance—which involves treating seeds prior to sprouting and testing irrigation water for pathogens at intervals in the growing process—said The Packer.

Of note, sprouts present a very unique challenge because they can become tainted prior to harvesting, when they are growing. Also, the conditions required for sprout growing are optimal for growing pathogens. Bacteria need the right temperature, nutrients, and water and sprouts grow in watery, warm environments, ideal for rapid bacterial growth. Sprouts are often eaten raw with no additional treatment, such as cooking, which eliminates bacteria; washing sprouts does not necessarily remove bacteria because bacteria grow within the sprouts and cannot be washed away.

Salmonella Saintpaul is considered rare, explained the Physician Assistant and is the serotype linked with last summer’s massive outbreak first linked to tomatoes and later to Mexican peppers. Salmonella can cause serious, sometimes fatal Salmonellosis infections. The very young, under three months of age; the very old; immunocompromised individuals, such as those undergoing chemotherapy treatment and AIDS/HIV patients; and chronically ill patients, such as those with sickle-cell, chronic liver, renal, or cardiac disease, and patients with prosthetic joints, are at greatest risk, said the Physician Assistant. Because Salmonella is “susceptible to gastric acidity,” explained Physician Assistant, people taking antacids or H2blocking agents are more susceptible.

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