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Salmonella outbreak traced to hazelnuts from Oregon farm

Oregon officials are warning consumers to check their homes for hazelnuts from the Schmidt Farm and Nursery farm stand and to immediately discard them because they have been named the cause of a Salmonella outbreak.

hazelnuts salmonella warningThe warning Friday from the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division reported five people have been confirmed in the outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium. They were all infected with the same strain of the pathogen, which was also found in hazelnuts from the Schmidt Farm and Nursery farm stand on highway southwest of McMinnville, OR.

Although the majority of the Schmidt Farm hazelnut crop goes to wholesalers, a spokesman from the Oregon Department of Agriculture said Friday afternoon that the department estimates the farm stand sold 32,000 to 48,000 pounds of hazelnuts direct to consumers.

Attempts to reach Schmidt Farm and Nursery owners were unsuccessful Friday. Their website and Facebook pages indicate the operation is closed for the season, with plans to reopen in the spring. The farm has about 80 acres of hazelnuts, according to information the owners provided to state officials.

Officials have few concerns about the portion of the Schmidt hazelnut crop that went to wholesalers.

“Wholesalers have steps in place that kill any Salmonella on the hazelnuts they handle before the nuts reach consumers,” said Stephanie Page, the agriculture department’s director of food safety and animal services, in the public warning.

“To date, we have no indication there were any issues with this part of the process. The concern in this case is with hazelnuts bought at the farm stand.”

That concern is based on hard science, according to the state’s public health officials. Lab tests from the five sick people were virtually identical to the Salmonella strain found in samples of hazelnuts purchased at the farm stand. Interviews with the victims further confirmed the connection.

“When interviewed by public health officials, three of the individuals recalled buying hazelnuts from the Schmidt Farm and Nursery stand in McMinnville,” according to the state health department. “The fourth ate hazelnuts from an unlabeled bag of partially shelled nuts. A fifth case was linked to the other four cases after having tested positive for the same strain of Salmonella.”

All five of the victims confirmed so far became ill between Oct. 15 and Dec. 13, 2016. None of them were hospitalization and all have recovered from their illnesses, the health department reported.

Because of the long shelf life of nuts, Oregon officials are concerned additional people may become ill. Anyone who has eaten hazelnuts from the Schmidt Farm and Nursery farm stand and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about the possible exposure to the pathogen.

Most people who get salmonellosis — infection from Salmonella bacteria —  become sick in one to five days after exposure. Salmonellosis can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps that can last up to seven days. Most people recover without treatment, but in some cases the diarrhea is so severe that hospital care is needed.

Though rare, the most severe cases of Salmonella can lead to death if not treated. Pregnant women, the elderly, children and people with weakened immune systems are much more likely to develop severe symptoms than healthy adults.

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