Salmonella Concerns Prompt Another Alfalfa Sprouts Recall

Some packages of Kowalke Organics packaged alfalfa spouts could possibly be contaminated with <"">Salmonella, according to California public health officials, reports the SF Gate. Kowalke Family Sprouts of Culver City also does business as Mike’s Produce Inc. and has voluntarily recalled several raw alfalfa sprouts products, including packaged dinner salad and onion mix, said the SF Gate.

The Department of Public Health said the sprout packages indicate sell-by dates from June 18 to June 30 and were generally distributed at Gelson’s and Whole Foods stores in Southern California, said the SF Gate. According to Kowalke owner, Mike Matthews, just one package—purchased in a “secret shopping” probe conducted by state agents—tested positive for the dangerous, sometimes deadly, Salmonella pathogen, reported the SF Gate. The contaminated package bore a June 21 sell-by date, said Matthews, who explained that the alfalfa products bearing that date have been pulled from store shelves, said the SF Gate.

According to Matthews, discussing the potentially contaminated batch, “Since we know it was clean when it left our truck, the only way that it could have happened was in cross contamination down the line in the store.” But, Al Lundeen, public health spokesman, explained that, in general, sprout contamination originates from seeds; therefore, health officials recalled all the products grown from that particular lot of seeds.

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.

In recent months, there have been a number of sprout recalls over potential contamination with food borne pathogens. Sprouts distributed by Arizona Hydroponic Farming LLC tested positive for Salmonella, were recalled, and were linked to a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella St. Paul. This outbreak, which was reported last month, appears to be an extension of earlier outbreak in 2009, said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and appears to have been linked to multiple growers in several states. The FDA said the contamination may have originated with tainted seeds. Also in May, the Caudill Seed Company of Louisville, Kentucky, recalled a number of seed batches, which were later found to be contaminated with the rare Salmonella Saintpaul pathogen.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea which may be bloody, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis.

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