April 27, 2009

FDA warns against eating alfalfa sprouts

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending people temporarily stop eating raw alfalfa sprouts.

The federal agencies said their warning -- issued because sprouts have been linked to salmonella contamination -- includes sprout blends containing alfalfa sprouts.

The investigation indicates that the problem may be linked to contamination of seeds for alfalfa sprouts, the FDA said in a statement. Because suspect lots of seeds may be sold around the country and may account for a large proportion of the alfalfa seeds currently being used by sprout growers, and cases of illness are spread across multiple states.

The federal agencies said Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia have reported 31 cases of Salmonella Saintpaul illnesses, with most people who became ill reporting that they ate raw alfalfa sprouts.

The illnesses began in mid-March and cases are still being reported. The number of infected people may be higher than currently reported because some illnesses have not yet been confirmed with laboratory testing, the FDA said.

Officials said the outbreak appears to be an extension of an earlier spate of illnesses. In February and March, an outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul infections occurred in Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas and Minnesota.