The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Has updated their investigation into an E. coli O157 (STEC O157) outbreak in Minnesota and Wisconsin linked to recalled Jack & the Green Sprouts alfalfa and alfalfa onion sprouts products. Seven people are sick in Minnesota, and two in Wisconsin. Two people in Minnesota have been hospitalized, but no one has reported hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure.
On February 25, 2016, Jack and the Green Sprouts voluntarily recalled all alfalfa and alfalfa onion sprout products. These products do not have a long shelf life, so hopefully consumers will not have them in their homes. If you do, throw them away and clean out your refrigerator with a mild bleach solution, then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
The CDC says that this outbreak does not appear to be related to the ongoing multistate outbreak of Salmonella Muenchen infections linked to alfalfa sprouts produced by Sweetwater Farms of Inman, Kansas. The investigation into the E. coli O157 outbreak is ongoing and more information will become available soon.
Public health officials interviewed eight people in the Jack and the Green Sprouts E. coli O157 outbreak. All eight people ate or perhaps ate alfalfa sprouts or menu items containing the sprouts the week before they got sick. Traceback investigations found that Jack and the Green Sprouts provided alfalfa sprouts to all seven locations where those sickened either purchased them or ate them.
Consumers should not eat and restaurants should not serve these recalled sprouts. Contact a doctor if you think you have been sickened from eating raw sprouts. The symptoms of an E. coli O157 infection include severe abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, watery diarrhea, a mild fever, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms usually appear three to four days after exposure to the pathogenic bacteria.
To reduce your risk of getting sick from raw sprouts, cook them to 165°F before you eat them. This produce item is inherently risky, since bacteria can be inside the seed or bean, and sprouting conditions encourage the growth of those bacteria. During the sprouting process, just a few bacteria can become a million bacteria in a few days. Children, older adults, pregnant women, those with chronic illnesses, people with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women should never eat raw sprouts of any kind.
And if you are eating in a restaurant, request that raw sprouts are not added to your food. If they are, send the dish back and ask for a completely new dish. Removing sprouts from a dish after the fact is useless, since the food will already be contaminated if the sprouts have bacteria.
Restaurant owners should make sure that they only produce sprouts from growers that follow FDA Guidance for reducing microbial food safety hazards for sprouted seeds. That includes buying seeds from producers that are grown under good agricultural practices, treated with chemicals that reduce pathogens, and conditioned, sorted, and transported in a manner that minimizes contamination probability. And the sprouts should be grown in facilities with good sanitation, including clean water and good worker hygiene practices. Finally, facilities should test spent irrigation water from each production lot to make sure that contaminated sprouts are not distributed.