Jack and the Green Sprouts alfalfa sprouts and alfalfa onion sprouts are at the center of an E. coli O157:NM outbreak in Minnesota and Wisconsin that has sickened at least nine people. There have been many outbreaks linked to sprouts in the past 20 years; in fact, some food safety experts say that raw sprouts should be treated like raw meat. At least 30 outbreaks in the past 20 years have been linked to this product.
While all fresh produce, when eaten raw, and for that matter all food eaten raw, carries the risk of pathogen contamination, sprouts are a special case. During the sprouting process, which occurs in moist and warm conditions, bacteria can multiply up to a million times the original amount that was on the beans, according to experts at the USDA.
The makeup of the sprouts themselves may contribute to the problem. Research conducted at the ARS Western Regional Research Center has found that pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli attack the roots and seed coats of bean plants in the field, and that compounds produced by sprouts as they grow actually nurture these bacteria.
And, according to that same research, the fact that many sprouts growers run organic operations means they won’t use irradiation or chemicals to kill the bacteria, or they can’t afford to use those techniques. Moreover, no treatment is guaranteed to eliminate all of the bacteria on beans or sprouts.
Jack and the Green Sprouts is voluntarily recalling alfalfa and alfalfa onion sprouts for E. coli O157:NM. Using the multiplier for E. coli outbreaks, which is two, there may be as many as 18 people sickened. Two people in Minnesota have been hospitalized as a result of their illnesses; there are no reports of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
Illness onset dates range from January 17, 2016 through February 8, 2016. This outbreak may grow as more people go to doctors and their illnesses are reported. Investigations of the FDA, CDC, the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection indicate that sprouts produced by Jack and the Green Sprouts are the likely source of this outbreak.
While people of any age can be sickened by raw sprouts, very young children, pregnant women, the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and people with chronic illnesses are more likely to become seriously ill. Do not eat recalled alfalfa sprouts or alfalfa onion products produced by Jack and the Green Sprouts. If you have experienced the symptoms of an E. coli infection after eating these products, see your doctor.
The symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe abdominal pains, diarrhea that may be bloody and/or watery, nausea, vomiting, and a mild fever. In some people, especially children under the age of five, this infection can progress to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) which can cause kidney failure and death. The symptoms of HUS include little or no urine output, lethargy, pale skin, easy bruising, a skin rash, and bleeding from the nose or mouth. If these symptoms appear, immediate medical treatment is necessary.