Sick Sprouts II: 9 E. coli cases linked to Jack & the Green Sprouts

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced that contaminated alfalfa sprouts have caused 9 cases of E. coli O157:NM. All nine cases are in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

This is the second outbreak linked to alfalfa sprouts announced in  six days, as the Kansas Department of Health and Environment made the initial announcement of a multistate Salmonella outbreak linked to alfalfa sprouts produced at Kansas’ Sweetwater Farms.

The ongoing outbreak of E. coli O157:NM has been tied to alfalfa sprouts produced by Jack & the Green Sprouts, a distributor located in River Falls, Wisconsin. The company distributes alfalfa sprouts throughout the upper Midwest. The MDH says that distribution may extend to states outside of the upper Midwest as well.

Routine disease monitoring conducted by the MDH found seven cases of E. coli O157:NM with dates of onset in January or early February that involved bacteria with the same DNA fingerprint. Of the Minnesota cases, four of the infected individuals are male. The youngest Minnesota outbreak victim is 18; the oldest is 84. Two of the cases required hospitalization due to the severity of the illness.

Two additional cases of E. coli O157:NM were identified in Wisconsin residents by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WDHS), bringing the total number of outbreak cases to nine. Fortunately, the cases in Wisconsin were not severe enough to require hospitalization.

Minnesota public health officials are now conducting the investigation with the aid of investigators from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and WDHS. At this point, the investigation has traced the Minnesota cases and at least one of the two Wisconsin cases to a variety of situations and locations, including grocery stores, co-ops, commercial food service, salad bars and restaurants.

The ongoing investigation is working to determine the extent of the product contamination. State officials are working with the FDA to collect samples to further narrow down the source of the outbreak. In the interim, state and local officials are urging the public not to eat Jack & the Green Sprouts alfalfa sprouts and restaurants and retailers not to serve alfalfa sprouts produced by the company.

The contaminated sprouts are typically packaged in a plastic clamshell container with a bright or neon-colored round label on top. The label notes the sprout variety, which is important in this case as contaminated alfalfa sprouts may be mixed in the same package with other sprout varieties. There is no evidence to date that other products distributed or produced by Jack & the Green Sprout are contaminated, but consumers should ensure that there are no alfalfa sprouts included in any “mixed sprouts”-type product they may purchase or have at home.

The MDH announcement comes on the heels of the CDC’s initial announcement of an alfalfa sprout-linked outbreak of Salmonella Muenchen on Tuesday.

Sprouts are commonly isolated as the source of E. coli, Salmonella and listeria outbreaks, and health officials recommend that the elderly, children, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (examples include alfalfa spouts, mung bean sprouts, clover, and radish).

The strain of E. coli bacteria in this outbreak – E. coli O157 – is a more dangerous bacteria than other strains of E. coli, as it sometimes leads hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is associated with kidney failure and may lead to death. Children younger than ten, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems have the highest risk of developing severe complications from an E. coli O157 infection.

For information about the Jack & the Green Sprout outbreak or any other food poisoning outbreaks, call the lawyers at Ron Simon & Associates 1-888-335-4901

 – the experience of a hemolytic uremic syndrome lawyer.