SunSprout Salmonella Continues to Spread

The <"">Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, linked to previously recalled SunSprout brand sprouts, has sickened 76 people in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and South Dakota, KGAN reports. The cases have all been linked to SunSprout Enterprises’ alfalfa, onion, and gourmet sprouts. Earlier this month, SunSprout issued a voluntary recall of the products; however, the recall was lifted when no cause for the contamination was revealed during an investigation, said KGAN.

A listing of the recalled sprout lot numbers can be found at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Website. Some of the recalled sprouts contain a “best if sold by” date that extends until March 14, noted Lon Kightlinger, South Dakota’s state epidemiologist, reported the Argus Leader.

The outbreak, which began in Nebraska, has grown to at least 45 confirmed cases of the rare Salmonella Saintpaul contamination in that state, 21 confirmed in Iowa, and at least five each in South Dakota and Kansas, said KGAN. However, the Argus Leader said that health officials in South Dakota have reported an additional 24 more probable cases over and above the five confirmed cases there.

Kightlinger said that the recalled sprouts had been distributed in four states to restaurants and grocery stores, noting that some victims were probably infected after eating sprouts in restaurants, while other were contaminated after consuming store-bought sprouts, according to the Argus Leader. “You could still have people who bought it last week, and it’s in the refrigerator and they haven’t been paying attention,” Kightlinger told the Argus Leader.

After the recalled sprouts were sent to food distributors, those distributors then sold the sprouts to restaurants and retail stores, MarketWatch said in an earlier report. Also, according to the Associated Press (AP), the SunSprout brand sprouts were distributed by CW Sprouts of Omaha and sold at grocery stores and restaurants.

According to a prior AP article, investigators are trying to determine if the sprouts were contaminated earlier on in the food chain. Of note, sprouts present a very unique challenge when a food borne outbreak occurs because sprouts can become tainted with salmonella prior to harvesting, when they are growing. Also, 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, which are ideal for rapid bacterial growth. Sprouts are often eaten raw with no additional treatment, such as cooking, which eliminates bacteria that can cause disease and food borne illnesses. Washing sprouts does not necessarily remove bacteria because bacteria grow within the sprouts and cannot be washed away.

Victims might be eligible to receive reimbursement for costs related to medical care and lost pay, said WOWT in a prior report, noting that any business in the food chain, from farm to table, could be potentially liable in the ongoing multi-state outbreak. From farm to table includes just that: Any party involved in the process, for instance, grocery stores and restaurants, in addition to growers, processors, and distributors.

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