March 21, 2018

No Recall for Bean Sprouts that Sicken 63 with Salmonella

Although Salmonella in bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods has sickened 63 people in 10 states, a recall for the tainted product has not been issued. The company told federal officials that its last shipment of the product was November 18 and that it had contacted Asian restaurants and other establishments on the East Coast that received the product. But it did not issues a recall. Nor has it made public a list of  companies that served or sold the sprouts.

Alfalfa Sprouts FPBHeadscratching as that may seem, a similar situation happened with both of the other outbreaks linked to sprouts this year. Last month,  an outbreak from sprouts tainted with Listeria killed two people. Still, the producer Wholesome Soy Inc. of Chicago did not issue a recall. In fact, it kept making and distributing sprouts. And in May, Evergreen Fresh Sprouts never issued a recall when its sprouts were linked to an E.coli outbreak that sickened 19 people in six states.

“There is so much wrong here it’s hard to know where to start,” said Fred Pritzker, national food safety attorney and publisher of Food Poisoning Bulletin. “The public has a right to know if a company’s product caused harm.”  What’s more, he said, there is a mountain of evidence that shows sprouts are inherently dangerous.

This is the third food poisoning outbreak this year to be caused by sprouts, but there have been dozens of “sproutbreaks” over the last 20 years. And efforts to improve the food safety of sprouts have not been successful, Pritzker said. “More than a decade of concentrated effort by regulators and sprout suppliers has failed to make raw sprouts safe to eat.”

Unless restaurants print safety warnings on menus, they should stop serving raw sprouts, said Pritzker. In 2012, 29 people were sickened in an 11-state E.coli outbreak linked to sprouts served on Jimmy John’s sandwiches. Jimmy John’s elected to keep sprouts on the menu and was involved in the E.coli outbreak in May.

But at least one company has cut sprouts off its product list. In 2012, Kroger, one of the nation’s largest grocery retailers, decided to stop selling sprouts because of the risk they pose. It will be interesting if this outbreak prompts others to follow suit.




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