Link to Salmonella Outbreak Questioned by Sprout Grower

A water runoff sample from Tiny Greens Organic Farm has tested positive for the same strain of <"">Salmonella involved in an outbreak linked to the Illinois grower’s alfalfa sprouts, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). However, Tiny Greens’ owner told that the water tested by the agency was not connected to his operation.

According to Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) latest update, the Salmonella outbreak has spread to 22 states, with 125 illnesses reported so far. Approximately half of the illnesses occurred in Illinois, where many of the ill individuals ate sandwiches containing sprouts at various Jimmy John’s outlets.

The CDC has tied the Salmonella outbreak to consumption of Tiny Greens Alfalfa Sprouts or Spicy Sprouts (which contain alfalfa sprouts mixed with radish and clover sprouts). The sprouts were distributed to various customers, including farmers’ markets, restaurants, and groceries in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri and may also have been distributed to other Midwestern states.

Bill Bagby, owner of Tiny Greens Organic Farm, claims the runoff water that turned up positive for Salmonella “was runoff from the compost pile outside the building.” Tiny Greens grows its sprouts indoors, said, and none of the 260 samples the FDA took from inside its facility turned up Salmonella, according to Bagby.

“My epidemiologist said it’s not probable that any of my products is contaminated,” Bagby said. “Possible, yes; but probable, no.”

The reported that after the recall, Tiny Greens discarded products worth about $100,000, including 21,000 pounds of bean sprouts. Bagby said the facility has undergone a “precautionary deep cleaning”, and he expects to resume distributing sprouts January. 20.

As we’ve reported in the past, sprouts present a unique food poisoning challenge in that they can become tainted prior to harvesting, when growing. Because 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. Over the past 15 years, at least 30 outbreaks of food poisoning have been associated with eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts, according to the FDA.

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