December 23, 2020

Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Wonton Foods Sprouts Sickened 115

A Salmonella outbreak linked to Wonton Foods bean sprouts sickened 115 people in 12 states in 2014. The outbreak, which was declared over in January 2015, was traced back to the Wonton Foods facility. Traceback investigations found that there were five clusters of illnesses initially, in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont, but the outbreak spread as time went on.

Bean SproutsWonton Foods was the only supplier in common of bean sprouts sold to restaurants where ill persons ate before becoming sick. Wonton Foods agreed to clean their facility and destroy any remaining product in their possession. The sprouts are most likely no longer available for purchase or consumption since they have a maximum shelf life of about two weeks.

Most of those who were sickened ate at “Asian-style food service establishments” according to the CDC report. Illness onset dates ranged from September 30, 2014, to December 15, 2014. The patient age range was younger than 1 year to 83 years. Among 75 people interviewed in this outbreak, 19, or 25%, were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.

 

The case count by state was: Connecticut (8), Maine (4), Maryland (6), Massachusetts (36), Montana (1), New Hampshire (6), New York (22), Ohio (3), Pennsylvania (18), Rhode Island (7), Vermont (3), and Virginia (1). The ill person from Montana traveled to the Eastern U.S. when exposure likely occurred, so the outbreak was concentrated in that geographic area.

Unfortunately, underreporting of illnesses is a common factor in all outbreaks. Many more people were likely sickened by these contaminated bean sprouts, but did not report their illness to public health officials. The multiplier for Salmonella outbreaks is 30.3. That means that as many as 3484 people were sickened in this outbreak.

If you ate at an Asian-type restaurant in any of the states included in the outbreak last fall, and suffered the symptoms of a Salmonella infection, see your doctor. Those symptoms include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. The long term complications of this type of infection can be serious, including reactive arthritis, inflammation of the spine and joints, inflammation of the membrane that protects the heart, and high blood pressure.

And public health officials continue to warn consumers that raw, or uncooked, bean sprouts or sprouts of any type are an inherently dangerous product. The seeds themselves are often contaminated with pathogenic bacteria. The growing environment, which is moist and warm, is perfect for the growth of bacteria. Unless bean sprouts are thoroughly cooked, consumers should avoid eating them.

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