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Salmonella Found In Sprouts, Cilantro, Parsley

December 29, 2010

A US food safety agency warned consumers on Monday against eating alfalfa sprouts and spicy sprouts (a mixture of three types of sprouts) from Tiny Greens Organic Farm in Urbana, Illinois, after reports surfaced that the foods were tainted with salmonella, possibly behind the 89 cases found throughout the Midwest.

USA Today received a call from Tiny Greens Organic Farm owner Bill Bagby on Monday evening. Bagby, who was stranded at a family reunion in North Carolina, told USA Today that the Illinois Dept. of Public Health and the US Food and Drug Administration went to his farm in Illinois and took more than 210 samples of “of our water, our alfalfa sprouts, the seed we use to grow the alfalfa sprouts ““ and all of their samples came back negative for salmonella.”

The FDA warning is based on “what they call a statistical association only,” said Bagby. In general FDA and CDC make such an association when a statistically significant number of people become sickened and report eating a given product, despite the lack of any positive evidence linking the product to the outbreak.

The FDA has asked Tiny Greens to do a recall on its alfalfa sprouts grown from a particular lot of alfalfa seed. Bagby said he plans to follow through with the recall, but the company has not yet had time to get the release out due to both the holiday and his being snowed in in an area with spotty phone reception.

He noted that Tiny Greens has “sold thousands of pounds of product to other restaurant chains, other retail chains and none of these have been linked to the outbreak.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has tracked the salmonella outbreak since Nov. 1. It had received reports of people being sick in 15 states and the District of Columbia. The strain of salmonella is common so it is possible some of the cases are not related to the outbreak, said the CDC.

The CDC notes that the elderly, infants and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have severe illness from salmonella infection, which can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, chills and blood in the stool.

In a similar report, J&D Produce has warned consumers not to eat certain batches of curly parsley and cilantro that it said may be tainted, though no illnesses have yet been reported associated with that recall.

The US Food Safety and Inspection Service says: “Any raw food of animal origin, such as meat, poultry, milk and dairy products, eggs, seafood, and some fruits and vegetables may carry salmonella bacteria.” But such contamination is easily avoidable, especially when the food is correctly prepared.

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