Five people in Kansas are part of Salmonella outbreak linked to alfalfa sprouts from Sweetwater Farms in Inman, Kansas. Consumers who have purchased these sprouts should not eat them as Salmonella can cause serious illness.
The outbreak also incldues three illnesses in Missouri, three illnesses in Oklahoma and two illnesses in Pennsylvania. Five of those sickened, who range in age from 18 to 73, have been hospitalized.
Health officials used DNA “fingerprinting” tests to identify a total of 13 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Muenchen. During interviews with health officials, those sickened reported eating sprouts or menu items containing sprouts in the week before becoming ill. Nine of them reported eating alfalfa sprouts. One of them identified Sweetwater Farms as the brand of sprouts they purchased from a grocery store and ate before becoming ill.
During the interviews, five restaurants were named by those sickened as the place of purchase for menu items containing sprouts. Traceback investigations from these restaurants revealed that Sweetwater Farms supplied alfalfa sprouts to all five locations. Sweetwater Farms has recalled lot 042016 of alfalfa sprouts voluntarily.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection, which include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea that can be bloody, usually develop within six to 72 hours of exposure and last about a week. For some people the diarrhea and vomiting can be so severe it causes dehydration, and hospitalization is required. If the infection travels from the gastrointestinal tract to the bloodstream more serious, life-threatening complications can occur. Anyone who developed these symptoms after eating these sprouts should contact a doctor and mention exposure to Salmonella.
This outbreak is occurring at the same time an E. coli outbreak linked to contaminated alfalfa sprouts produced by Jack & the Green Sprout has sickened seven people in Minnesota and two in Wisconsin.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has a section devoted to sprouts because of the “unique risk” the present. The growing conditions for sprouts are also the ideal conditions for growing bacteria.
There have been more than 30 “sproutbreaks” or outbreaks of illness linked to sprouts contaminated with Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli and other pathogens, since 1996. They are also frequently recalled.
In 2012, Kroger, one of the nation’s largest grocery retailers, decided to stop selling sprouts because of the risk they pose. There were seven sprout recalls that year.
In 2014, sprouts were the source of two large multistate outbreaks. One of them, a Salmonella outbreak linked to Wonton Foods bean sprouts, sickened 111 people in 12 states. About a quarter of those sickened were hospitalized. Another, was an E. coli 0121 outbreak linked to raw clover sprouts that sickened 19 people in 6 states. That outbreak was linked to Evergreen Fresh Sprouts of Idaho.
Because of the damp environment required to grow sprouts, it is difficult to control for bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children, seniors, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind and that others thoroughly cook sprouts before eating them. To see FoodSafety.gov’s fact sheet on sprouts click here.