SunSprout Salmonella Spreading

The <"">salmonella outbreak linked to recalled SunSprout brand alfalfa sprouts that began in Nebraska and spread into Iowa, has now been reported in South Dakota and Kansas. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that SunSprouts brand alfalfa, onion, and gourmet sprouts were recalled and now, the Associated Press (AP) is reporting that the outbreak has spread to two more states.

According to the AP, the South Dakota health department is reporting five salmonella cases that might be linked to the growing outbreak; however, laboratory testing is pending to confirm the link. Also, said the AP, the Nebraska health department is confirming 17 cases, while 13 more are considered probable; Iowa is reporting 12 confirmed and three probable cases; and Kansas has confirmed five cases, with a possible sixth under investigation. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Star says that 24 cases of Salmonella Saintpaul have been confirmed in Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.

The Argus Leader said that of five people interviewed who had fallen ill, only four ate sprouts at restaurants—indicating perhaps another salmonella source—four remain to be reached and two have refused to cooperate, according to South Dakota state Epidemiologist Lon Kightlinger, who noted that, “We can link people to the outbreak, but we need to know where they ate and what they ate.” The Argus Leader is reporting 50 cases of the rare Salmonella Saintpaul have turned up in five states, including Missouri.

And, while the investigation into the Omaha, Nebraska firm that recalled the sprouts continues, the cause has not yet been found, said ENews 2.0.

SunSprout Enterprises of Omaha Nebraska said that the recalled sprouts were sent to food distributors in Iowa and Nebraska. Those distributors then sold the sprouts to restaurants and retail stores, MarketWatch said in an earlier report. Also, according to the AP, the Sunsprouts brand sprouts were distributed by CW Sprouts of Omaha and sold at grocery stores and restaurants; all of the recalled products are involved in the recall. While the FDA is investigating what, if anything, contributed to the contamination at the plant, said the AP, investigators are trying to determine if the sprouts were contaminated earlier in the food chain.

Sprouts present a 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, ideal for rapid bacterial growth. Sprouts are usually 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.

In a prior report, WOWT pointed out that victims of this outbreak might be eligible to receive reimbursement for costs related to medical care and lost pay, noting that any business in the food chain, from farm to table, could be potentially liable for the growing multi-state outbreak. From farm to table includes just that, any vendor involved in the process, for instance, grocery stores and restaurants.

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