October 15, 2018

Largest Multi-State Food Poisoning Outbreaks Of 2012: #8

An E. coli outbreak linked to clover sprouts served at a fast-food sandwich chain was the eighth largest multi-state food poisoning outbreak of 2012, based on the total number of people sickened. “Sproutbreaks” are common in the US. On average, there have been two every year since 1990, sickening  about 125 people annually with E. coli, Salmonella or Listeria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Sprouts in BowlThis 11-state outbreak, which was announced in March, sickened 29 people who ranged in age from 9 to 57 years old almost 90 percent of whom were female. At least seven people were hospitalized. There were no fatalities.

It wasn’t the only time sprouts made headlines this year. In 2012, there were at least seven sprout recalls. Leasa Industries Inc. of Florida recalled 433 cases of alfalfa sprouts for possible Salmonella contamination in June. Banner Mountain Sprouts  recalled organic sprouts for possible Salmonella contamination in June.  Cleveland Beansprouts Co. of Ohio is recalling all alfalfa sprouts for potential Listeria monocytogenes contamination in May. Henry’s Farm of Virginia is  recalled soybean sprouts  for possible risk of Listeria monocytogenes in April.  And Alfa Sprouts Inc. (Springwater Sprouts) of Honeoye Falls, New York recalled 100 pounds of alfalfa sprouts and clover sprouts for Listeria monocytogenes  risk in April.

Kroger, one of the nation’s largest retailers decided to stop selling sprouts because of the risk they pose. “After a thorough, science-based review, we have decided to voluntarily discontinue selling fresh sprouts. Testing and sanitizing by the growers and safe food handling by the consumer are the critical steps to protect against foodborne illness. Sprouts represent a unique challenge because pathogens may reside inside of seeds where they cannot be reached by the currently available processing interventions,” Payton Pruett, Kroger’s vice president of food safety, said in a statement at the time of the announcement this fall.

In March, around the time the outbreak was announced, the CDC made a video about why people should not consume raw sprouts. In the video, Lieutenant Commander Rajal Mody, M.D., who works in the CDC’s Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch,  says that “no available method [to decontaminate seeds] has proved completely effective.”  The CDC recommends that children, seniors, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind and that others should thoroughly cook sprouts before eating them.

Check Food Poisoning Bulletin each day as we count down the largest multi-state foodborne illness outbreaks of 2012. Coming tomorrow:  #7.

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