There are at least three people sick in Oklahoma with Salmonella Muenchen infections linked to raw sprouts produced by Sweetwater Farms. Five people total in this outbreak have bene hospitalized; no deaths have been reported.
Sweetwater Farms, located in Inman, Kansas has been tested. Investigators found Salmonella in samples of irrigation water and in sprouts collected during an inspection at that facility. Testing is underway to determine the type and DNA fingerprint of Salmonella isolated from these samples.
Alfalfa sprouts produced by Sweetwater Farms are not safe to eat because they may be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. There has been a recall attached to this outbreak; all of the company’s sprout products have been recalled from the market as of February 26, 2016.
It’s important to recognize that many more people are sickened in these outbreaks than are reported in government reports. The multiplier for Salmonella is 30.3. That means that at least 150 people in Oklahoma alone and at least 393 people nationwide are most likely sick.
If you purchased alfalfa sprouts from Sweetwater Farms, do not eat them. Throw them away and wash your hands, then clean out your refrigerator with soap and water and then with a mild bleach solution to kill any remaining bacteria. This advice is usually given after foods are recalled for Listeria monocytogenes, but for some reason the FDA has started including this cleaning information for other pathogens.
If you ate any of these recalled products and have experienced the symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning, see your doctor. The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. Symptoms usually begin 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the pathogenic bacteria. Most people recover without medical treatment within four to seven days, but some people become so ill they must be hospitalized.
Remember that even if you recover completely, the long term complications from a Salmonella infection can be serious, including reactive arthritis, high blood pressure, and irritable bowel syndrome. If you have diarrhea that lasts more than three days, or is accompanied by a high fever, blood in the stool, or so much vomiting that you can’t keep liquids down and you pass very little urine, see your doctor immediately because you may have sepsis (a blood infection) and are dehydrated. This complication can cause death.
If you do enjoy eating sprouts, please think about cooking them first. Raw sprouts are considered risky because the bacteria can be encapsulated in the seed that is sprouted in a warm and moist environment. This provides the perfect breeding ground for bacterial growth. Cooking to a temperature of 160°F is the only way to kill bacteria and make sure that the sprouts are safe to eat.
And if you are in a high risk group, do not eat raw sprouts at all, even when there isn’t a recall or outbreak. These products are just too risky for those with precarious health, according to the CDC.