Saturday, May 9, 2009

Alfalfa Sprouts: The Other Salmonella Outbreak

May 9, 2009

On May 7th, CDC issued a preliminary report on this year's two-pronged Salmonella outbreak that was traced to contaminated alfalfa sprouting seeds.

The seeds, which were imported from Italy by Caudill Seed Company (Louisville, KY), were the source of a strain of Salmonella Saintpaul that infected 228 people in 13 states over a three month period. The investigation was complicated, as Caudill supplied alfalfa seeds to a number of different sprout growers in several states.

The first – and larger – prong of the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak began on February 2nd, according to the Nebraska's Douglas County Health Department. This phase lasted into early March, with a few sporadic cases being reported as late as April 5th – 186 victims in all, 73% of whom reported having eaten alfalfa sprouts.

The first wave of victims – residents of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota – had consumed sprouts grown by Sunsprout Enterprises, a Nebraska company. Sunsprout purchased its alfalfa seeds from Caudill

While FDA did not succeed in finding the outbreak strain of Salmonella in alfalfa sprouts supplied by Sunsprout, the agency found a different strain – Salmonella Typhimurium in a sample of the company's sprouts obtained at a Nebraska restaurant. And testing of a sample of alfalfa seeds obtained at the Sunsprout facility yielded yet another strain – Salmonella Give. 

While FDA was still investigating the first outbreak, a second wave of illnesses was reported; 42 cases of Salmonella Saintpaul in Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, and West Virginia. Once again, alfalfa sprouts were the most probable source of the pathogen. The implicated sprouts were traced back to the same seed supplier – Caudill Seed Company – but this time, to three different growers, located in Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. 

On April 26th, FDA and CDC issued a joint warning to consumers to avoid eating raw alfalfa sprouts. And on May 1st, FDA sent a letter to seed suppliers, distributors and sprout growers to remind them of the agency's guidelines on safe growing procedures for seed sprouts. 

What happened to the contaminated seeds and sprouts? Caudill agreed to "withdraw" the contaminated seeds. There was no public recall of the imported seeds, as they were never distributed directly to consumers. The Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania growing operations that were the source of alfalfa sprouts in the second wave of illnesses never were identified by name; nor were their sprouts recalled from the marketplace.

Some alfalfa sprout recalls have been announced this year: Jack and the Green Sprouts (WI) in February; Sunsprouts (NE) in March; Jonathan's Sprouts, Inc. (MA) in April; Los Angeles Calco (CA) in April; and Arizona Hydroponic Farming LLC (AZ) in May. Except for Sunsprouts, none of these growers have been implicated by FDA in the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak. And not a single alfalfa sprout grower in Michigan, Minnesota or Pennsylvania has recalled even one package of sprouts this year.

Which growers were implicated in the second wave of Salmonella illnesses? FDA is not saying. And the CDC outbreak report simply states,

"The degree to which the various sprout growers involved have appropriately and consistently implemented FDA recommendations or other protective methods is under investigation. These outbreaks might indicate a need to determine how well this important but voluntary guidance is being implemented. Additional studies of measures to prevent, detect, and eliminate contamination of seeds and sprouts also are needed."

We do not believe that a general warning against consuming raw sprouts, combined with a general statement that growers' practices are under investigation is enough. The consumer deserves – needs – to know which sprout growers may have cut corners or ignored portions of the FDA guidelines on safe sprouting. It is unfair to tarnish the reputations of conscientious sprout growers by putting all growers in the same category.

FDA has issued specific warnings against consuming products from uncooperative food processors in the past. Why not name the all of the sprout growers implicated in this outbreak?


  1. Although there is ample eveidence to support my suspicion that the salmonella and e-coli outbreaks in our food sources are from the use of bio-control products; this is being ignored by Federal and state agencies.

    EVERY ONE OF THE CROPS THAT HAVE SHOWN POSITIVE FOR SALMONELLA and/or E-COLI HAVE HAD BIO-CONTROL PRODUCTS USED ON THEM. This is called "organic"; terms of "NATURAL" or environmentally friendly fungus and bacteria being used for a pesticide, fungicide, insecticide etc. However it should be understood that as little as .07% of the actual fungus and/or bacteria are the active ingredient.

    When a bio-control product is submitted to the EPA for registration the EPA evaluates the product and tests it. Right on the EPA's, Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division preprinted Form; 8570-6 it says, “After fermentation and prior to further processing, each batch must be tested for the following microbial contaminants and have levels below those listed.”

    Now, e-coli and salmonella are the very first pathogens that are listed! So you see, I don’t buy this nonsense that farm animals or humans contaminated the crops that salmonella and e-coli have tested positive. I guess I would’ve accepted that theory if I didn’t know what the EPA’s form said. Why should any of us have to worry about even the slimmest possibility of a human or animal disease producing bacteria or fungus being used on our food crops or for insect control?

    Evidently the EPA is concerned about it because they have not only e-coli and salmonella, but other disease producing pathogens listed on the form that is sent to the bio-control product manufactures.

    READ THE EPA's, Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division preprinted Form; 8570-6:

    [E-coli/Coliform Bacteria, Salmonella, Shigella, Stephylococci, Vibrio, Yeast and Mold is listed on page 1 [of 4]; #2

  2. Anonymous:

    1. You make a sweeping statement that this bio-product is used on ALL crops. Where is your documentation to back this up?

    2. I have read the EPA form. You are misinterpreting the content. EPA requires that these microbes be absent, just as FDA and USDA require that they be absent from ready-to-eat foods.

    3. Alfalfa sprouts are not grown in the field. They are grown hydroponically. The Salmonella-contaminated seeds used to produce these sprouts were imported from Italy.

    4. I have traveled the Salinas and San Jaquin valleys in California. I have seen the cattle feedlots located very near crop fields, and the open-ditch irrigation canals in the same area.

    5. I have visited the biotechawareness website and I see that it is devoted to a specific problem between Agraquest and one of its former employees.

    If you have documentation to back up your allegations, I would be happy to review it.


  3. Phyllis,

    The following biocontrol products show the crops they are used on. As you can tell, all of the salmonella and e-coli contamination's that have been reported within the last few years have had biocontrol products used on them I do feel that within time we will see more and more of salmonella and/or e-coli contamination's in these crops.

    USES: ALMONDS s a l m o n e l l a (soil fumigation) , Apples (soil fumigation) , Apricots (soil fumigation) , Avocados
    (soil fumigation) , Beans (dry) (soil fumigation) , Beans (lima) (soil fumigation) , Beans (snap) (soil fumigation) , Beans (soil fumigation) , Beets (soil fumigation) , Berry plantings (soil fumigation) , Blackberries (soil fumigation) , Blueberries (soil fumigation) , Brazil nut (soil fumigation) , Broccoli (soil fumigation) , Brussels sprouts (soil fumigation) , Cabbage (soil fumigation) , Caneberries (soil fumigation) , CANTALOUPES s a l m o n e l l a (soil
    fumigation) , Carrots (soil fumigation) , Cashews (soil fumigation) , Cauliflower (soil fumigation) , Celery (soil fumigation) , Cherries (soil fumigation) , Citrus (soil fumigation) , Cole crops (soil fumigation) , Collards (soil fumigation) , Conifers (forest) (seed bed) , Cranberries (soil fumigation) , Cucumbers (soil fumigation) , Cucurbits (soil fumigation) , Currants (soil fumigation) , Eggplant (soil fumigation) , Filberts (soil fumigation) , Forest nurseries (soil fumigation) , Fruit trees (soil fumigation) , Garbanzo peas (chick peas) (soil fumigation) , Garlic (soil fumigation) , Ginger (soil fumigation) , Ginseng (plant bed) , Gooseberries (soil fumigation) , Grapefruit (soil fumigation) , Grapes (soil fumigation) , Hickory nuts (soil fumigation) , Horseradish (soil fumigation) , Huckleberries (soil fumigation) , Kale (soil fumigation) , Kohlrabi (soil fumigation) , Leafy vegetables (soil fumigation) , Legumes (soil fumigation) , Lemons (soil fumigation) , Lentils (soil fumigation) , LETTUCE s a l m o n e l l a (soil fumigation) ,
    Loganberries (soil fumigation) , Mangos (soil fumigation) , Melons (soil fumigation) , Muskmelons (soil fumigation) , Mustard (greens) (soil fumigation) , Nectarines (soil fumigation) , Nut trees (soil fumigation) , Okra (soil fumigation) , Onions (soil fumigation) , Oranges (soil fumigation) , Ornamental flowering plants (soil fumigation) , Ornamental plants (soil fumigation) , Ornamental trees (soil fumigation), Ornamental woody shrubs (soil fumigation) , Papayas (soil fumigation) , Peaches (soil fumigation) , Pears (soil fumigation) , Peas (soil fumigation) , Pecans (soil fumigation) , PEPPERS salmonella (soil fumigation) , Pineapple (soil fumigation) , PISTACHIO NUTS salmonella
    (soil fumigation) , Plums (soil fumigation) , Potatoes (soil fumigation) , Prunes (soil fumigation) , Quinces (soil fumigation) , Radishes (soil fumigation) , Raspberries (soil fumigation) , Root crop vegetables (soil fumigation) , Soybeans (soil fumigation) , SPINACH s a l m o n e l l a , e. coli (soil fumigation) , Squash (soil fumigation) , Stone
    fruits (soil fumigation) , Strawberries (soil fumigation) , Strawberries (transplant bed) , Sweet potatoes (soil fumigation) , Tangelos (soil fumigation) , Tangerines (soil fumigation) , TOMATOES s a l m o n e l l a (soil fumigation) ,
    Turnips (soil fumigation) , Vegetable crops (transplant beds) (soil fumigation) , Vegetable seed beds (soil fumigation) , Vine fruits (soil fumigation) , Walnuts (soil fumigation) , Watermelon (soil fumigation)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.