An E. coli outbreak linked to Jack and the Green Sprouts brand sprouts has prompted the company to issue a recall for alfalfa and onion sprouts. Consumers who have purchased these sprouts should not eat them as E. coli can cause serious illness.
The company, based in Rivers Falls, Wis., announced the recall by posting the Minnesota Department of Health’s news release about the outbreak on its Facebook page preceded by the statement: “Out of abundant caution we are voluntarily recalling Alfalfa and Alfalfa Onion sprouts.”
The recalled sprouts were packaged in plastic clamshell containers with a brightly colored round label on the top. They were distributed throughout the Midwest to grocery stores, co-ops, restaurants, salad bars and commercial food service operations.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) identified seven cases of E. coli O157:NM in January and early February with the same DNA fingerprint. During interviews, all of those sickened reported eating sprouts prior to onset of symptoms.
Symptoms of an E. coli infection, which usually develop between two and five days after exposure and last up to ten days, include stomach cramps and diarrhea, that is sometimes bloody. Sometimes these symptoms are accompanied by a low-grade fever.
Some people with E. coli infections develop serious complications including hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) which leads to kidney failure. Those most at risk for contracting an E. coli infection and developing complications are children, seniors and those with weakened immune systems. There have been no reported cases of HUS in this outbreak, according to state and federal health officials.
It’s important to note that diarrhea associated with E. coli O157 infections should not be treated with antibiotics, as this can increase the risk of developing HUS, according to the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers forDisease Control and Prevention (CDC). Anyone who ate the sprouts and has symptoms of an E. coli O157 infection should contact their health care provider and mention exposure to E. coli through these sprouts.
This outbreak is occurring at the same time as a multistate Salmonella outbreak that is also linked to alfalfa sprouts. That outbreak has sickened 13 people in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Those sprouts were produced by Sweetwater Farms in Kansas. The CDC says the outbreaks do not appear to be related at this time.
Sprouts are a common source of foodborne illness and food poisoning outbreaks. In the last 20 years, there have been more than 30 “sproutbreaks,” or outbreaks of illness linked to sprouts contaminated with Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli and other pathogens.
The hot, humid environment required to grow sprouts is also ideal for bacterial growth. Sometimes the bacteria are in the seeds themselves and can’t be washed off The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children, seniors, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind and that others thoroughly cook sprouts before eating them. To see FoodSafety.gov’s fact sheet on sprouts click here.