New York, California Warn of Food Poisoning Risk from Sprouts

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is warning consumers to not eat Banner Mountain Alfalfa Sprouts because the sprouts may be contaminated with the dangerous, sometimes deadly, <"">Salmonella pathogen. The CDPH is advising consumers to discard the sprouts or return them to the place of purchase.

Routine surveillance samples of Banner Mountain Alfalfa Sprouts were found to be contaminated with Salmonella. To date, said the CDPH, no illnesses have been associated with the Banner Mountain product at this time. The recalled alfalfa sprouts are packaged in four-ounce, clear, flexible, clamshell plastic containers with green labels containing sell-by dates from September 7 to October 8, 2010.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection include fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea, which may be bloody. Most infected people recover within a week. Some people may develop complications that require hospitalization. Infants, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are at highest risk for more severe illness.

CDPH recommends consumers who experience symptoms of Salmonella infection after consuming Banner Mountain Alfalfa Sprouts consult their health care provider. Consumers who observe the product being offered for sale are encouraged to report their findings to the CDPH toll free complaint line at (800) 495-3232.

Meanwhile, New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker also just alerted consumers that Essex Farm Inc. (dba Best Farm), located at 120 Essex St. #32 & 33, in New York, New York, is recalling all packages of “Soybean Sprouts” due to the presence of another dangerous and sometimes deadly pathogen, <"">Listeria monocytogenes.

The recalled “Soybean Sprouts” were purchased in bulk, repacked at the retail store level, and marketed on random weight Styrofoam trays overwrapped with clear plastic, which is not coded. The product was sold only at this retail location in New York City.

Listeria-contaminated products could cause Listeriosis, a disease that usually causes mild flu-like symptoms in healthy individuals; however in immune-compromised individuals, meningitis and blood poisoning can occur. Pregnant women are also considered a high-risk group, as Listeriosis can also result in stillbirths.

Routine sampling by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ food inspectors and subsequent analysis of the sprouts by New York State Food Laboratory personnel revealed the product was contaminated with Listeria. Consumers who have purchased packages of “Soybean Sprouts” from Essex Farm Inc. (dba Best Farm) are urged to return them to the place of purchase or discard the product.

We have long been writing that sprouts present a unique food borne contamination challenge in that they can become tainted prior to harvesting, when growing. 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. 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.

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