Salmonella Sprout Recall Expanded

A <"">Salmonella outbreak linked to alfalfa sprouts has been expanded to include all of Tiny Greens’ alfalfa sprouts over the potential for contamination, said the News-Gazette.

The farm previously recalled three different lots of alfalfa sprouts: 348, 350, and 354 of its 4-ounce spicy sprouts (alfalfa, radish, and clover) and 4-ounce, 1-pound, 2-pound, and 5-pound alfalfa sprouts with sell-by dates of Dec. 29, Dec. 31 and Jan. 4, said the News-Gazette. The expanded recall now includes all products containing alfalfa sprouts on the market with lot numbers from 305 through 348 and with sell-by dates from Dec. 16 to Dec. 29. Recalled products were distributed in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri and could be restaurants and supermarkets, noted the News-Gazette. The recall does not involve organic sprouts, which have been—and continue to be—grown from organic seeds; only nonorganic sprouts are involved.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just issued an advisory that people not eat alfalfa sprouts and spicy sprouts, which contain alfalfa, radish, and clover sprouts, from Tiny Greens, said the News-Gazette. According to the FDA, the outbreaks have been reported in Illinois and other states in the Midwest.

Tiny Greens’ owner, Bill Bagby Jr., said on its recent visit to his facility that the FDA asked him to avoid using certain seeds to grow alfalfa sprouts; the seeds have been destroyed, said the News-Gazette.

The outbreaks have sickened 94 people in 16 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Initial cases began being reported on November 1st, said CNN, previously. It seems that many of those sickened ate alfalfa sprouts in Jimmy John’s sandwich products; according to the FDA, the recalled sprouts came from Tiny Greens Organic Farm and, said the News-Gazette, preliminary reports point to a link with the outbreak and Tiny Greens sprouts at Jimmy John’s.

FDA spokeswoman, Siobhan DeLancey, noted that prior recalls involving sprouts in the United States revealed seeds as being the most probable cause of contamination, said the News-Gazette. “It is very difficult to sanitize alfalfa seeds. If you look at one under a microscope you’ll see there are a million places for bacteria to hide,” said Bagby, quoted the News-Gazette.

“While the FDA has not ruled out that a portion of the parent seed lot was the source, we have not seen similar outbreaks in other parts of the country to which the same lot of seed was distributed,” DeLancey said, reported the News-Gazette. Testing is ongoing.

“It is entirely possible that we may never find the same strain of salmonella that caused the outbreak, as this has historically been a challenge in outbreak investigations, especially as time progresses from the contamination event,” DeLancey said.

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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