Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Alfalfa Sprouts Plagues 15 States

A <"">Salmonella outbreak linked to alfalfa sprouts has gone nationwide. We first reported on this outbreak last week, after dozens of Salmonella cases popped up in Illinois. In at least some of the Illinois Salmonella cases, victims reported eating alfalfa sprouts at Jimmy John’s sandwich restaurants.

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. 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.

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 Food and Drug Administration.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 89 cases of the same Salmonella strain have been reported in 15 states, including Connecticut (1), District of Columbia (1), Georgia (1), Hawaii (1), Iowa (1), Illinois (50), Indiana (9), Massachusetts (1), Missouri (14), New York (1), Pennsylvania (2), South Dakota (1), Tennessee (1), Texas (1), Virginia (1), and Wisconsin (3). While no deaths have been reported, 23 percent of those sickened have been hospitalized.

Last week, we reported that Jimmy John’s has asked franchisees in Illinois to pull alfalfa sprouts from their menu, after some Salmonella illnesses were traced to sprouts served at some of the chains restaurants there. In a letter to franchisees, Jimmy John Liautaud characterized the removal of alfalfa sprouts as “precautionary.”

According to the letter, testing of the chain’s main sprout supplier has come up negative for Salmonella. Jimmy John’s restaurants that have undergone testing have so far tested negative for the bacteria.

Symptoms of Salmonellosis (illness caused by Salmonella bacteria) include diarrhea, vomiting, fever and/or stomach cramps. Illness usually develops within six to 72 hours after being exposed to Salmonella bacteria and generally lasts three to seven days. Some individuals who are infected may have no symptoms at all but may still transmit the Salmonella bacteria to others. The spread of Salmonella from person to person may be avoided by careful hand washing with soap and water, particularly after using the restroom.

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