FDA Warns Against Sprouts for Salmonella Risk

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It’s the sprouts again. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers on Monday not to eat alfalfa sprouts or spicy sprouts in plastic bags labeled Evergreen Produce or Evergreen Produce Inc. because of possible Salmonella Enteritidis contamination.

Health officials say the sprouts may be linked to 20 cases of Salmonella infection, including one hospitalization, in Idaho, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota and Washington State. The pathogen is not the same as the one that contaminated sprouts in Germany (that was E. coli O104:H4).

The FDA advises anyone who has bags of Evergreen Produce alfalfa sprouts or spicy sprouts to throw them out in a sealed container so other people or animals can’t eat them.

Raw sprouts are known to be a common source of foodborne illness — most of the 30 outbreaks of illness involving sprouts since 1996 were caused by Salmonella and E. coli. But the FDA says Salmonella Enteritidis is rarely seen at the frequency of the current outbreak.

To reduce the chance of infection and illness, the FDA advises consumers to avoid raw or lightly cooked sprouts. When preparing sprouts at home, they should be cooked thoroughly; at restaurants people should ask that raw sprouts not be added to their food. Children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems should continue to avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean sprouts).

The alfalfa sprouts in question come packaged in 4-oz. and 16-oz. plastic bags with pre-printed labels. They can also be found in 1-lb. and 5-lb. plastic bags with stick-on labels.

The spicy sprouts are packaged in 4-oz. plastic bags with pre-printed labels and 1-lb. plastic bags with stick-on labels.

The FDA is currently investigating the outbreak in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health agencies in the states where illnesses have occurred.

If you think you might have become ill from eating contaminated sprouts, you should consult your doctor. For more info on the sources, risk factors, symptoms and ways to avoid Salmonella Enteriditis infection, check out the CDC’s webpage here.