October 28, 2016

Sprouts Recalled for E. coli Sold at Seward Co-op, Mississippi Market

E. coli-alfalfa-sproutsJack and the Green Sprout alfalfa and onion sprouts recalled for E. coli were sold at a variety of locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin including Seward Co-op and Mississippi Market locations. The recalled sprouts have been linked to an outbreak that has sickened seven people in Minnesota and two people in Wisconsin. Consumers who have purchased these products should not eat them as E. coli can cause serious illness.

The recalled sprouts were packaged in plastic clamshell containers with a brightly colored round label on the top and were distributed throughout the Midwest to grocery stores, co-ops, restaurants, salad bars and commercial food service operations.

“In this outbreak, the pathogen is E. coli O157:NM, a highly dangerous bacteria.  Given the risks, sprout producers need to be more measured in touting the health benefits of their product,” said Ryan Osterholm, a food safety attorney.

Symptoms of an E. coli infection, which usually develop between two and five days after exposure and last up to ten days, include stomach cramps and diarrhea, that is sometimes bloody or watery. Sometimes these symptoms are accompanied by a low-grade fever.

Some people with E. coli infections develop serious complications including hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) which leads to kidney failure. Those most at risk for contracting an E. coli infection and developing complications are children, seniors and those with weakened immune systems. There have been no reported cases of HUS in this outbreak, according to state and federal health officials.

It’s important to note that diarrhea associated with E. coli O157 infections should not be treated with antibiotics, as this can increase the risk of developing HUS, according to the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Anyone who ate the sprouts and has symptoms of an E. coli O157 infection should contact their health care provider and mention exposure to E. coli through these sprouts.

E. coli infections are diagnosed when stool samples are cultured for the pathogen. Health officials used DNA “fingerprinting” to identify seven cases of E. coli O157:NM infection from January to early February. Two of those sickened, who range in age from 18 to 84 years old, were hospitalized.

Minnesota and Wisconsin health officials are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate the outbreak.  The FDA and state officials are collecting and testing samples to determine the source of the outbreak.

Sprouts are a common source of foodborne illness and food poisoning outbreaks.  In the last 20 years, there have been more than 40 “sproutbreaks,” or outbreaks of illness linked to sprouts contaminated with Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli and other pathogens. This outbreak is occurring at the same time as a multistate Salmonella outbreak that is also linked to alfalfa sprouts. That outbreak has sickened 13 people in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Those sprouts were produced by Sweetwater Farms in Kansas. The CDC says the outbreaks do not appear to be related at this time.

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