Alfalfa Sprouts Salmonella Poisoning Warning Issued by FDA and CDC

A growing number of food poisoning cases reported in several states involving the Salmonella Saintpaul strain of bacteria have been linked to eating raw alfalfa sprouts. As a result, the FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory over the weekend warning consumers not to eat any raw alfalfa sprouts or sprout blends until further notice.

The U.S. health officials indicate that the alfalfa sprout problems appear to be linked to contaminated seeds sold to growers throughout the United States.

Since the contaminated alfalfa sprouts have been linked to a number of different growers, the FDA suggests that this may mean that many sprout growers have not appropriately and consistently followed their Sprout Guidance issued in 1999.

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“The guidance recommends an effective seed disinfection treatment immediately before the start of sprouting… and regularly testing the water used for every patch of sprouts for Salmonella and E coli O157:H7 contamination,” according to the FDA’s statement issued April 26, 2009.

At least six states have linked cases of Salmonella Saintpaul food poisoning to eating raw alfalfa sprouts, including Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.

So far, there are 31 confirmed cases of food poisoning that began to surface in mid-March, but the true number of illnesses is likely substantially higher as cases are still being reported and possible cases in a number of other states are still in various stages of laboratory testing.

Of the confirmed cases of Salmonella Saintpaul poisoning, all became ill after eating raw alfalfa sprouts. While several reported eating the alfalfa sprouts in restaurants, many purchased the raw sprouts at grocery stores or other retail locations.

Salmonella food poisoning can cause symptoms like fever, nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain. Children, elderly people and those with an already compromised immune system are at an increased risk for complications from salmonella poisoning.

In severe cases, the infection could result in hospitalization or death, although no fatalities have been linked to the alfalfa sprout food poisoning outbreak.

According to the FDA, the outbreak appears to be an extension of a recent sprout recall issued earlier this year by SunSprout Enterprises, Inc. Contaminated alfalfa sprouts, onion sprouts and gourmet sprouts sold by SunSprout had been linked to more than 121 cases of food poisoning as of April 7, 2009.

At least one sprout food poisoning lawsuit has already been filed against SunSprout and their parent company, CW Sprouts, Inc. in Nebraska by a man who was sickened after eating alfalfa sprouts.

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