Sprouts Again Linked to Potentially Deadly Pathogen – Sprouts at Top of List of Problem Foods!
On Tuesday February 28th, the FDA and the CDC announced that the outbreak of salmonella in alfalfa sprouts, distributed by the Sun Sprouts brand grown in Fremont, Nebraska. The outbreak began on December 29, 2022 when SunSprout Enterprises issued a recall on four lots of sprouts that were possibly contaminated. The exact source of the contamination has not been identified, but SunSprout is investigating for any malpractices in the handling and storing of the sprouts. The contaminated sprouts had a “sell by” date between December 10, 2022 and January 10, 2023.
The outbreak caused 63 cases of reported illness (10 hospitalizations) across eight states in the Midwest with the most cases from Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. Infected individuals consumed the contaminated sprouts from both restaurants and grocery stores. The last illness related to the outbreak was reported on February 2nd.
Sprouts are especially susceptible to bacteria and pathogens and between the years of 1996-2010, there were 34 foodborne illness outbreaks linked to sprouts. They are particularly susceptible because they require warm and humid environments to grow which are the perfect environment for bacteria and microorganisms to thrive. Contamination can come from multiple sources such as irrigation water, field workers, or animal manure. Alfalfa sprouts are also often consumed raw, so there is no opportunity for the bacteria to be killed. Consuming just one singular cell of Salmonella is enough to cause someone to contract a foodborne illness.
The FDA recognizes the unique risks that come along with sprouts and have imposed certain regulations to monitor their production. One aspect of the Food Safety Modernization Act created in 2011 was dedicated to improving the production of sprouts including testing the irrigation water and production areas. Despite these efforts, it is evident that outbreaks are still quite possible.
Salmonella symptoms often include vomiting, nausea, fever, and diarrhea and can be potentially fatal for those with weaker immune systems. In the majority of cases, the recovery time is around four to seven days and medical attention should be sought if symptoms last more than a week.