Like any fresh food product that is consumed raw or lightly cooked, sprouts carry a risk of foodborne illness. The humid conditions that are required to grow the sprouts are also ideal for the growth of various disease causing bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli. Over the past 15 years, there have been at least 30 reported outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with different types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Once again, alfalfa sprouts is in the news for Salmonella outbreak that has sickened 89 people in 15 states and the District of Columbia.
Salmonella outbreak in Alfalfa sprouts
The investigation revealed that the outbreak started at a national sandwich chain Jimmy John’s. According to the The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Illinois has reported the maximum cases of sickened people after eating alfalfa sprouts at locations of Jimmy John’s. CDC reported that as of now Illinois has reported 50 cases, Missouri reports 14 cases, Indiana reports 9, Wisconsin has three and Pennsylvania reports two. Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and the District of Columbia all have one confirmed case. About 23% of those sickened were hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.
Health officials have identified the particular strain of salmonella through diagnostic testing. The strain has been identified as Salmonella serotype I 4,,12:i:-
Chris Braden, a physician and director of the CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases said this is a common type of Salmonella.
The founder of Jimmy John’s, Jimmy John Liautaud...
said its main sprout supplier conducted salmonella tests and that the results are negative. The FDA and state health departments are investigating the sprout growers, as well as the seed suppliers, in an effort to find the source the outbreak.
Alfalfa sprouts has been considered a healthy component of a balanced diet. However, due to the risk of contamination, the FDA’s website has made recommendations against eating the raw sprouts:
- Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).
- Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Cooking kills the harmful bacteria.
- Request that raw sprouts not be added to your food. If you purchase a sandwich or salad at a restaurant, check to make sure that raw sprouts have not been added.
If you are pregnant or having weekend immune system, try to avoid the alfalfa or any other types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts. It’s better to prepare sprouts in your home and eat them fresh.