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Sprout Salmonella Cases Rapidly Rising

Mar 19, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP The ongoing salmonella outbreak linked to a variety of SunSprout Enterprises’ sprouts, has now sickened 121, with 45 additional cases reported in Nebraska and Iowa, says KGAN.  The cases are of the Salmonella saintpaul strain, the same strain that was to blame for last year’s massive Mexican pepper recall and outbreak that was first linked to tomatoes.

Nebraska health officials say 84 cases of Salmonella saintpaul were confirmed near Omaha, Lincoln, and Kearney; Iowa officials confirmed 27 cases; and South Dakota and Kansas officials have confirmed five cases in each of their states, reported KGAN.

The outbreak has been linked to SunSprout Enterprises’ alfalfa, onion, and gourmet sprouts.  Earlier this month, SunSprout issued a voluntary recall of the products; however, the recall was lifted when no cause for the contamination was revealed during an investigation, said KGAN, in an earlier report.

After the recalled sprouts were sent to food distributors, those distributors then sold the sprouts to restaurants and retail stores, MarketWatch said in an earlier report.  Also, according to the Associated Press (AP), the SunSprout brand sprouts were distributed by CW Sprouts of Omaha and sold at grocery stores and restaurants.

Victims might be eligible to receive reimbursement for costs related to medical care and lost pay, said WOWT in a prior report, noting that any business in the food chain, from farm to table, could be potentially liable in the ongoing multi-state outbreak.  From farm to table includes just that:  Any party involved in the process, for instance, grocery stores and restaurants, in addition to growers, processors, and distributors.

According to a prior AP article, investigators are trying to determine if the sprouts were contaminated earlier on in the food chain.  Of note, sprouts present a very unique challenge when a food borne outbreak occurs because sprouts can become tainted with salmonella prior to harvesting, when they are growing.  Also, 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, which are ideal for rapid bacterial growth.  Sprouts are often eaten raw with no additional treatment, such as cooking, which eliminates bacteria that can cause disease and food borne illnesses; washing sprouts does not necessarily remove bacteria because bacteria grow within the sprouts and cannot be washed away.

Salmonella causes 40,000 confirmed cases each year, but, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is probably responsible for close to 40 times that—a stunning 1,600,000—noting that 2,500 subtypes of salmonella exist, said MSNBC in an earlier report.

Salmonella can cause serious, sometimes fatal salmonellosis infections in young children and weak or elderly people.  Healthy people may experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, if infected.  Without treatment, severe cases of Salmonella can result in death; however, some Salmonella bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, largely due to the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of feed animals.

A listing of the recalled sprout lot numbers can be found at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Website page on the recall at:

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