The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has join the investigations into the E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks linked to contaminated alfalfa sprouts. The multistate outbreaks, that are unfolding simultaneously, have been linked to sprouts produced by two different companies: Jack and the Green Sprouts of River Falls, Wis. and Sweetwater, Inmnan, Kan.
Recalls have been issued for alfalfa and onion sprouts sold under these brand names which were distributed to restaurants, grocery stores, co-ops and food service operations. Consumers and customers who have purchased these products should not eat them as E. coli and Salmonella can both cause serious illness.
The Salmonella outbreak, linked to Sweetwater alfalfa sprouts, has sickened 13 people in four states. The outbreak strain Salmonella Muenchen has sickened five people in Kansas, three people in Missouri, two people in Oklahoma and two people in Pennsylvania. Five people have been hospitalized. Those sickened reported onset of illness dates ranging from December 1, 2015 through January 21, 2016.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection, which usually develop within six to 72 hours of exposure, include fever, vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea that can be bloody. Those most at risk are seniors, children, and people with compromised immune systems.
The E. coli outbreak, linked to Jack and the Green Sprouts alfalfa and alfalfa onion sprouts, has sickened nine people in two states. The outbreak strain E. coli O157:NM, has sickened seven people in Minnesota and two people in Wisconsin. Two people have been hospitalized. Onset of illness dates range from January 17, 2016 through February 8, 2016.
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.
Sprouts have been the source of at least 40 outbreaks in the last 20 years and are recalled because of bacterial contamination an average of four times a year. “Given the risks, sprout producers need to be more measured in touting the health benefits of their product,” said Elliot Olsen a food safety attorney with the law firm PritzkerOlsen who has represented clients sickened by contaminated sprouts.