Sprouts Linked to Salmonella Outbreak in U.S.

Evergreen Produce Brand Alfalfa and Spicy Sprouts Behind Salmonella Outbreak

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

June 28, 2011 -- The FDA is warning people not to eat alfalfa sprouts or spicy sprouts produced by Evergreen Produce because of a danger of salmonella contamination.

The FDA says the sprouts have been linked to 20 reported cases, including one hospitalization, of Salmonella Enteritidis infection in Idaho, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Washington State.

Officials say this particular strain of salmonella is rarely seen in such frequency.

The tainted alfalfa and spicy sprouts are packaged in plastic bags labeled "Evergreen Produce" or "Evergreen Produce Inc."

Salmonella Risks

The majority of people infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. Most healthy people infected with salmonella recover without treatment in four to seven days, but some may require hospitalization from severe diarrhea.

The elderly, infants, and people with impaired immune systems are most at risk of developing severe illness from salmonella infection. In extreme cases, salmonella infection can spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and other body sites and eventually cause death if not treated with antibiotics.

What to Do

The alfalfa sprouts associated with the outbreak are packaged in 4-ounce and 16-ounce plastic bags with pre-printed "Evergreen Produce" or Evergreen Produce Inc." labels. They are also packaged in 1-pound and 5-pound plastic bags with stick-on labels.

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

Consumers, retailers, and others who have alfalfa sprouts or spicy sprouts in such bags should discard them in a sealed container so that people and animals, including wild animals, cannot eat them.

People who think they may have become ill from eating contaminated sprouts should contact their health care provider.

The FDA says sprouts are a common source of food-borne illness. There have been at least 30 outbreaks of food-borne illness associated with raw and lightly cooked sprouts since 1996.

Officials say children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind, including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts.

To reduce the risk of infection, the FDA advises cooking sprouts thoroughly and to request raw sprouts not be added to your food.

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SOURCE: News release, FDA. ©2011 WebMD, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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