Salmonella Outbreak Prompts Alfalfa Sprout Warning

Yesterday, we wrote that public health officials in Idaho warned consumers to throw out alfalfa sprouts from Evergreen Produce of Moyie Springs, because of a possible <"">Salmonella outbreak. Since, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning advising consumers to not eat Evergreen Produce brand alfalfa or spicy sprouts.

Yesterday, the Salmonella strain was unknown. Today, we know that the sprouts potentially contain Salmonella Enteritidis. This pathogen is not related in anyway to the E. coli outbreak that has been reported in Europe, the FDA said..

As of yesterday, 19 people had fallen ill in northern Idaho, eastern Washington, and western Montana. Of these, 6 people reported eating alfalfa sprouts from Evergreen, Health & Welfare, said the Bonner County Daily Bee. The sprouts have since been linked to 20 reported cases, including one hospitalization of Salmonella Enteritidis in Idaho, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Washington State each.

The FDA is warning consumers not to eat alfalfa sprouts or spicy sprouts from plastic bags labeled “Evergreen Produce” or “Evergreen Produce Inc.” The alfalfa sprouts are packaged in 4- and 16-ounce plastic bags with pre-printed labels. The sprouts are also packaged in 1- and 5-pound plastic bags with stick-on labels. To date, the FDA is aware of distribution in Idaho, Montana, and Washington State; however, consumers and retailers in neighboring states should check product labels to ensure they are not eating or selling Evergreen Produce brand alfalfa sprouts or spicy sprouts.

Consumers, retailers and others who have alfalfa sprouts or spicy sprouts in plastic bags labeled “Evergreen Produce” or “Evergreen Produce Inc.” should discard them in a sealed container so people and animals, including wild animals, cannot eat them.

Sprouts are a known source of foodborne illness. Since 1996, there have been at least 30 reported outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with different types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts. Most of these outbreaks were caused by Salmonella and E. coli.

The FDA advises that children, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts). To reduce the chance of foodborne illness, FDA advises consumers to cook sprouts thoroughly and to request raw sprouts not be added to your food.

The FDA is collaborating with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health agencies in those states where illnesses have occurred; the investigation is ongoing. The FDA is also working with state authorities to take appropriate action to address any product that may be remaining on the market.

 Consumers with questions about sprout safety should contact 1-800-SAFEFOOD.

Contamination with the Salmonella pathogen can cause salmonellosis, which can lead to serious consequences, most especially in the elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems, who may experience a more serious illness and symptoms. In these patients, the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites, and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

The CDC notes that people suffering from salmonellosis usually experience symptoms beginning 12 to 72 hours after becoming contaminated. Symptoms may include fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea and usually last 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without antibiotic treatment; however, diarrhea can be very severe, and hospitalization may be required.

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