A Salmonella Virchow outbreak linked to Garden of Life RAW Organic Meal shakes and meal replacement products has sickened at least 11 people in 9 states. This product is used by bodybuilders and as a probiotic supplement. Meal replacements are also used by people who are having gastrointestinal problems, by those who are sensitive to milk and whey, and as a “detox.” So how does a product like this become contaminated with Salmonella bacteria?
The company has released a statement saying that all of its products tested negative for bacteria before they were shipped. Unfortunately, there is no way to test every single teaspoon or milliliter of this or any product. Salmonella bacteria can live in clumps and may have been in some of the product that escaped testing.
The RAW products are made from raw seeds, greens, and sprouts. Any raw food, including raw milk, flour, raw meats, raw eggs, and raw produce can be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria.
Raw sprouts, in particular, have been the source of many food poisoning outbreaks in the past few years. Sprouts are grown in a warm and damp environment, which is the perfect setting for bacterial growth. And studies have found that bacteria may actually be inside the seeds that are sprouted. When the seeds are sprouted, the bacteria starts growing.
Raw seeds and greens have also been recalled and have been blamed for food poisoning outbreaks in the past. In fact, there is an ongoing Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to Dole prepackaged salads and greens that has killed one person and sickened at least 16 others in the U.S. and Canada.
Raw greens can become contaminated in the field by agricultural runoff, contaminated irrigation water, or by animals. These products can also become contaminated during harvest, production, packaging, and transport.
Raw seeds and products made from them have been responsible for food poisoning outbreaks in the past. The same problems that can contaminate greens and sprouts can cause contamination in seeds as well.
If you are a member of a high risk group: elderly, pregnant, or with a compromised immune system or a chronic health condition, it’s best to avoid raw foods, especially sprouts and seeds, if possible. The risks of illness from these products can be great. Adding a “kill step” such as heating or canning to these products before you eat them will help make you safer.
The symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea that may be bloody, fever, chills, headache, and muscle pains. Symptoms usually begin 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the pathogenic bacteria. The illness usually lasts for three days up to a week.
While most people recover on their own without medical treatment, some, especially those in high risk groups, can become so ill they need to be hospitalized for dehydration or sepsis, which is a blood infection. One person has been hospitalized in this outbreak. If you consumed this product and have experienced the symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning, please contact your doctor.