Salmonella Contamination Prompts FDA To Warn Against Eating Raw Alfalfa Sprouts

April 27, 2009

Don’t eat raw alfalfa sprouts or sprout blends containing alfalfa, the Food and Drug Administration warned Monday, because the sprouts may be contaminated with Salmonella.


An investigation by the food safety agency traced contaminated alfalfa sprouts to “multiple sprout growers in multiple states,” suggesting the contamination originates with the seeds, “as well as the possible failure of the sprout growers involved” to follow FDA guidelines for disinfecting seed.


The FDA said 31 people in six states have become sick after eating raw alfalfa sprouts, beginning in mid-March. None of those cases was in Texas, however, consumers here and across the country are being advised not to eat the sprouts because so many growers have produced contaminated products.


The Salmonella outbreak is likely an extension of an outbreak in Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas and Minnesota, which began in February, the FDA said in a statement Monday. The Salmonella serotype Saintpaul was discovered to be the culprit in all contaminated sprouts discovered so far.


Also, a separate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections was linked to sprouts earlier this year, the agency said.


Listeriosis mostly affects the elderly, pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches and sometimes mausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, headaches, loss of balance and convulsions can occur.


Salmonella infection can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, and lasts from four to seven days. In some cases infection spreads from the intestines to the blood, and other parts of the body, and can result in death if not treated.