A recent multistate outbreak of Salmonella Reading and Salmonella Abony infections linked to alfalfa sprouts appears to be over, according to a final update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The outbreak sickened 36 people from nine states and hospitalized seven of them. No related deaths were reported. Illnesses started on dates ranging from May 21 to Sept. 10. Those sickened range in age from less than 1 year to 72, with a median age of 30. Fifty-six percent of ill people were female. Of those sickened, 30 were infected with Salmonella Reading, one was infected with Salmonella Abony, and five were infected with both strains. The 36 people were from the following states: Colorado, 17; Kansas, nine; Nebraska, three; Wyoming, two; and Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Oregon and Texas, one each. “Epidemiologic and traceback evidence indicated that alfalfa sprouts supplied by Sprouts Extraordinaire of Denver, Colorado, were the likely source of this outbreak,” CDC stated. Following a conference call with CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Aug. 4, Sprouts Extraordinaire initiated a voluntary recall of 5-pound boxes of “Living Alfalfa” sprouts harvested from July 5-26. These products were not sold directly to consumers, according to FDA, but were probably consumed on sandwiches in one of several restaurants. “The FDA and state and local health agencies performed traceback investigations at five different restaurant locations where ill people reported eating alfalfa sprouts. These investigations indicate that Sprouts Extraordinaire supplied alfalfa sprouts to all five of these locations,” FDA reported. The restaurants were not named. During interviews, those sickened answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill. Of the 31 ill people who were interviewed, 18 reported eating or possibly eating alfalfa sprouts in the week before illness started, according to CDC. Even though this outbreak appears to be over, the federal agencies cautioned that sprouts are known to cause foodborne illness and outbreaks. FDA recommends that children, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind, including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean sprouts. More information from CDC about how to reduce the risk of getting sick from eating sprouts is available here. Retailers who purchase sprouts are advised to only source them from companies following FDA’s Guidance for Industry: Reducing Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Sprouted Seeds. Salmonella infection typically causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. However, in some people the diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized. In such patients, the infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)