Hinterland Green

Monday, April 27, 2009

FDA and CDC Warn Against Eating Raw Alfalfa Sprouts Due to Salmonella Outbreak in Several States

News alert. According to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans should not eat any raw alfalfa sprouts, or sprout blends containing alfalfa sprouts, until the origins of a salmonella Saint Paul outbreak has been determined. The warning is most important for the elderly, young children, and those with compromised immune systems, who are at high risk of serious complications from a salmonella infection.

So far, 31 people have taken ill since mid-March in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia, and federal investigators warned that illnesses may be present, but as yet undiagnosed in other states.

Federal investigators said that the seeds of alfalfa sprouts may be the source of salmonella, since multiple sprout growers in multiple states all appear contaminated. Additionally, according to the FDA and the CDC, the widespread outbreak also suggests that growers have failed to adhere to voluntary sanitary guidelines because best practice guidelines call for disinfection with calcium hypochlorite before planting, and routing testing to detect salmonella or E. coli contamination before sprouts reach consumers.

"Because suspect lots of seeds may be sold around the country and may account for a large proportion of the alfalfa seeds currently being used by sprout growers, and cases of illness are spread across multiple states, FDA and CDC are issuing this general advisory."

FDA Sprout Consumption Recommendations

In general, the FDA recommends these guidelines for those who continue to eat sprouts, even though it strongly recommends not eating alfalfa sprouts at this time.

  • Cook all sprouts thoroughly before eating to significantly reduce the risk of illness.
  • Sandwiches and salads purchased at restaurants and delicatessens often contain raw sprouts. Consumers who wish to reduce their risk of food borne illness should specifically request that raw sprouts not be added to their food.
  • Homegrown sprouts also present a health risk if eaten raw or lightly cooked. Many outbreaks have been attributed to contaminated seed. If pathogenic bacteria are present in or on seed, they can grow to high levels during sprouting even under clean conditions.

What Is Salmonella?

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, which may be bloody, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare instances, infection with salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses, such as meningitis and bone infections.

If you are like me, you love alfalfa sprouts, but the we must tread cautiously because compromising our health is not worth it. Green News Beat will keep you posted on the latest developments.