Nebraska-Iowa Salmonella Outbreak Prompts SunSprout Alfalfa Sprout Recall

The alfalfa sprouts linked to the salmonella outbreak that began in Nebraska and spread into Iowa, have been recalled. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced that SunSprouts brand alfalfa, onion, and gourmet sprouts have just been recalled, reported MarketWatch.

The recalled sprouts are sold refrigerated under the SunSprouts label in four-ounce clear plastic clamshell containers with “Best If Sold By” dates expressed in two different styles: “30209” or “MAR 02 2009,” “30409” or “MAR 04 2009,” “30709” or “MAR 07 2009,” “30909” or “MAR 09 2009,” “31109” or “MAR 11 2009,” and “31409” or “MAR 14 2009.” SunSprout Enterprises of Omaha Nebraska said that the recalled sprouts were sent to food distributors in Iowa and Nebraska. Those distributors then sold the sprouts to restaurants and retail stores, MarketWatch said.

Yesterday, the Associated Press (AP) reported that of 24 potential salmonella cases, 14 are confirmed, four are considered probable, and eight-to-10 other cases are considered suspect. Five cases of salmonella poisoning have been confirmed in Iowa by health officials there who say the strain is Salmonella Saintpaul, the same as the strain spreading in Nebraska, reported the AP. WOWT also just reported that there are at least 27 confirmed or suspected cases between the two states.

According to the AP, the Sunsprouts brand sprouts were distributed by CW Sprouts of Omaha and sold at grocery stores and restaurants; all of the recalled products are involved in the recalled. Now, the FDA is investigating what, if anything, contributed to the contamination at the plant, said the AP; however, investigators are trying to determine if the sprouts were contaminated earlier in the food chain.

Meanwhile, WOWT is reporting that victims of this outbreak might be eligible to receive reimbursement for costs related to medical care and lost pay, noting that any business in the food chain, from farm to table, could be potentially liable for the outbreak that is spreading across at least two states. From farm to table includes just that, any vendor involved in the process, for instance, grocery stores and restaurants. According to WOWT, there are seven distributors in Nebraska and Iowa known to handle the recalled SunSprouts brand and at least one retail store in Nebraska.

The FDA is working to ensure restaurants pull the recalled SunSprouts and not not use them and, said WOWT, two area restaurants and one grocery have done just that; however, the number of restaurants potentially involved in the SunSprouts recall and salmonella outbreak are unknown.

One of the challenges in this outbreak is that sprouts can become tainted with salmonella 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 usually eaten raw with no additional treatment, such as cooking, which eliminates bacteria that can cause disease and food borne illnesses; washing sprouts does not necessarily remove bacteria because bacteria grow within the sprouts and cannot be washed away.

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