Salmonella Victim Sues Sprout and Seed FirmsMay 11, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP A 49-year-old man who fell ill with Salmonella after consuming alfalfa sprouts that were on a turkey sandwich is reportedly suing CW Sprouts, Inc. The Omaha World-Herald reported that Daniel Krim was diagnosed with Salmonella Saintpaul, the same Salmonella strain linked to a growing, multi-state outbreak that initiated with sprouts.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently identified the source of the multi-state Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak to fresh alfalfa sprouts from seeds from the Caudill Seed Company of Louisville, Kentucky. CW Sprouts, Inc.’s SunSprouts products were linked to the outbreak and are known to have infected people in multiple states. Krim is also suing the Caudill Seed and Warehouse Co. of Louisville, Kentucky. Caudill Seed manufactured and sold alfalfa sprout seeds to CW Sprouts.
The Douglas County Health Department's food and drink supervisor, Jere Ferrazzo, recently announced that businesses are now allowed to use and sell sprouts; the department had previously asked such businesses to remove sprouts from menus, said the Omaha World-Herald. Although sprouts are back in grocery stores, Ferrazzo said that the FDA is advising consumers to avoid raw sprouts and for the elderly and people with compromised immune systems to avoid all sprouts.
Sprouts present a unique food borne contamination challenge in that they can become tainted prior to harvesting, when growing. The conditions required for sprout growing are optimal for growing pathogens: Bacteria need the right temperature, nutrients, and water and sprouts grow in watery, warm environments, ideal for rapid bacterial growth. Because sprouts are often eaten raw with no additional treatment, such as cooking, which eliminates bacteria, washing sprouts does not necessarily remove bacteria because bacteria grow within the sprouts and cannot be washed away.
Salmonella Saintpaul is considered rare and, explained the Physician Assistant in a prior report, the Saintpaul serotype is the same as was associated with last summer’s massive outbreak first linked to tomatoes and later to Mexican peppers. Salmonella can cause serious, sometimes fatal Salmonellosis infections. The very young, under three months of age; the very old; immunocompromised individuals, such as those undergoing chemotherapy treatment and AIDS/HIV patients; and chronically ill patients, such as those with sickle-cell, chronic liver, renal, or cardiac disease, and patients with prosthetic joints, are at greatest risk, said the Physician Assistant. Because Salmonella is “susceptible to gastric acidity,” explained Physician Assistant, people taking antacids or H2 blocking agents are more susceptible.
The Packer reported previously that Caudill withdrew all sprout seed batches with six-digit lot numbers starting with “032”; recalled seeds are packaged in 50-pound white bags marked with a white or yellow label with the distributor name, and were imported from Italy, said company spokesman Lyle Orwig. FDA testing did not reveal Salmonella at Caudill, but the agency identified seeds with the recalled lot numbers, said The Packer. “What they’ve said to us is the cases all led to sprouts, from multiple growers, and the common link is seeds,” said Orwig, quoted The Packer.
Orwig explained that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found consumption information from those sickened all pointed to sprouts, which pointed to growers, which pointed to seeds. “That lot was a common denominator among the illnesses,” Orwig said, reported The Packer, which noted there is no evidence leading to other seed lots or sprouts. Orwig said he believed the outbreak could have been avoided had growers followed sprout industry guidance—which involves treating seeds prior to sprouting and testing irrigation water for pathogens at intervals in the growing process—said The Packer.