Three people in the state of Missouri have been sickened in the multistate Salmonella Muenchen outbreak linked to Sweetwater Farms raw alfalfa sprouts. Five ill persons have been hospitalized in this outbreak, but we don’t know whether any of them are from Missouri. So far, thirteen people have been sickened so far.
Collaborative investigations have indicated that alfalfa sprouts produced by Sweetwater Farms of Inman, Kansas are a likely source of this outbreak. Laboratory testing isolated Salmonella bacteria from samples of irrigation water and from alfalfa sprouts collected during a recent inspection at Sweetwater Farms. Test results on whether those bacteria are the outbreak strain are pending.
Public health officials have interviewed twelve people and found that 10 of them, or 83%, reported eating or possibly eating sprouts the week before they got sick. When asked about the type of sprouts, nine of those ten ill persons said they ate alfalfa sprouts. Traceback investigations indicated that Sweetwater Farms supplied alfalfa sprouts to five different restaurants where patients said they ate sprouts. Investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify anyone else who may be part of this outbreak. DNA fingerprinting on the outbreak strain of the bacteria can pinpoint the DNA.
The CDC recommends that consumers do not eat alfalfa sprouts produced by Sweetwater Farms at this time. Sweetwater Farms alfalfa sprouts from lot 042016 have been voluntarily recalled from the marketplace.
Sprouts are a known source of foodborne illness and have been linked to multiple outbreaks in the past few years. And sprouts have been recalled for possible pathogenic bacterial contamination dozens of times in the past four years.
The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, headache, and diarrhea that may be bloody. Symptoms usually appear 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the bacteria. Most people get better within about a week, but some people become so ill they must be hospitalized. If you ate Sweetwater Farms sprouts or other types of raw sprouts and have experienced these symptoms, see your doctor. A Salmonella infection can have long term consequences for your health, including reactive arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and high blood pressure.
Food safety experts say that children, older adults, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, and those with chronic illness or health conditions should not eat raw sprouts of any kind. You can cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of foodborne illness; but this action will not render the sprouts 100% safe. Bacteria can produce toxins as they grow that are not destroyed by heat. And those toxins can make you sick when you eat that food.