The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) and Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) issued a public health alert yesterday regarding a local Salmonella outbreak linked to raw alfalfa sprouts.

The state has confirmed 12 cases of Salmonella Typhimurium in connection with the outbreak. Two hospitalizations have been reported.

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The MDCH and MDA are recommending that people, especially young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened systems, avoid consumption of raw alfalfa sprouts until the state has more information on the cause and origin of the outbreak.

“Eating raw sprouts is a known risk for exposure to Salmonella or E. coli O157: H7 bacteria,” said Dr. Gregory Holzman, chief medical executive for MDCH in an agency statement. “We want to educate people about this known risk in order for them to make informed decisions concerning their health.”

The MDCH reminds consumers to follow the following U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines for sprout consumption:

  • Cook all sprouts thoroughly to significantly reduce the risk of illness.
  • Sandwiches and salads purchased at restaurants and delicatessens often contain raw sprouts. Consumers who wish to reduce their reduce their risk of food borne illness should specifically request that raw sprouts not be added to their food.
  • Homegrown sprouts also present a health risk if eaten raw or lightly cooked. Many outbreaks have been attributed to contaminated seeds. If pathogenic bacteria are present in or on seeds, they can grow to high levels during sprouting even under clean conditions.

MDCH encourages consumers to contact their healthcare provider if they have recently consumed raw alfalfa sprouts and experience diarrhea, fever or abdominal cramps.