IMAGE SOURCE: CDC Web site map of latest outbreaks/ Wikimedia Commons image of sprouts
Another contaminated food outbreak is threatening consumers. This time raw alfalfa sprouts have been linked to Salmonella in ten states.
The notice went out from the Food and Drug Administration on Friday May 21, after 22 people in 10 states were sickened, including 11 people in California. Six individuals were hospitalized and 55% of the patients are female, reports the CDC.
The Caldwell Fresh Foods of Maywood, California is voluntarily recalling raw alfalfa sprouts packaged and labeled as Caldwell Fresh Foods alfalfa sprouts.
The four-ounce plastic cups and one pound plastic bag along with two pound and five pound plastic bags in cardboard boxes all labeled with the “Caldwell Fresh Foods” brand, “Natures Choice” and California Exotics” brand.
The outbreak variety is Salmonella Newport. Consumers, restraunts and retailers in ten states have been alerted including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Wisconsin.
Trader Joe’s and Wal-Mart stores also distribute the sprouts.
It was reported by individuals who ate sprouts at restaurants, while others purchased the sprouts at retail outlets.
Salmonella is a bacterium that impacts young children, frail people or those with a compromised immune system. Most people develop abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea and fever. Salmonella may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream where it is taken to other body sites. Salmonella poisoning, or salmonellosis, can cause death unless a person is treated promptly with antibiotics. Otherwise symptoms usually resolve in 5 to 7 days.
The FDA along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating along with public health departments in the affected states.
Because they are eaten raw or lightly cooked, sprouts carry a risk of foodborne illness. Sprouts grow in moist conditions which is also ideal for the growth of bacteria. The FDA warns that homegrown sprouts are not necessarily safer if there is bacteria present when they grow.
Since 1996, there have been at least 30 reported Salmonella outbreaks associated with sprouts.
Salmonella is a group of bacteria, microscopic living creatures, that originate in the gut of mammals and is passed from the feces of people or animals to other people or animals. Contaminated foods may look or smell normal. Often the contaminated foods are animal in origin and include beef, poultry, milk, or eggs but can include vegetables and even cookie dough.
In that case the food may have become contaminated by an infected food handler who did not wash their hands with soap and water after using the bathroom.
Pet feces can contain salmonella as can pet turtles, lizards and snakes, as well as young birds and chicks. You are advised to wash your hands with soap and water after handling any reptile or bird, even if the animal appears healthy.
The CDC advises consumers not eat raw or undercooked foods such as meat or eggs, homemade Hollandaise sauce, Caesar and homemade salad dressings, and frostings or unpasteurized milk.
The FDA in its Guidance for Industry, says that seed producers and distributors should be aware that seeds and their sprouts have been recognized as an important cause of foodborne illness.
The industry is required to do microbial testing. Irrigation water is supposed to be tested for pathogens during the three to 10 days it takes sprouts to grown.