Food Safety Attorney Calls on FDA to Require Sprout Labeling


SEATTLE, WA — The ongoing sprout-related Salmonella outbreak in western Oregon, Washington, and northern California has prompted William Marler, of the Seattle law firm Marler Clark, to call on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require warnings on packaging of all raw sprouts and seeds. The CDC renewed its own warning that people with weak immune systems should not eat sprouts in January, 2002.

“According the FDA’s 1999 advisory, Recommendations on Sprouted Seeds, sprouts have been increasingly implicated in foodborne outbreaks. The time has come to label sprouts as potentially hazardous,” said William Marler, the firm’s managing partner. He suggests this labeling mirror the requirements now found on unpasteurized juices:

WARNING: This product may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.

Every year, approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States. Because many milder cases are not diagnosed or reported, the actual number of infections is sometimes estimated to be twenty or more times greater. It is estimated that approximately 1,000 persons in the United States die each year with acute salmonellosis. Sprouts have repeatedly been linked to large outbreaks of salmonella.

·       February to May 2002: about 32 cases of salmonellosis associated with alfalfa sprouts in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico

·       February to March 2001: about 84 confirmed cases of salmonellosis associated with bean sprouts in Edmonton, Canada

·       March 2000: about 45 cases of salmonellosis associated with clover sprouts in California

·       May 1999: about 30 cases of salmonellosis associated with the consumption of clover sprouts in California

·       March to May 1999: about 70 cases of salmonellosis associated with clover sprouts in Colorado

·       May 1998: 19 cases of salmonellosis associated with alfalfa sprouts in California

·       Late 1997 to July 1998: 60 cases of salmonellosis associated with alfalfa/clover sprout mixture in California

·       February 1996: 133 cases of salmonellosis associated with alfalfa sprouts in Oregon and British Columbia

·       June 1995: 242 cases of salmonellosis in 17 states and Finland attributed to alfalfa sprouts

Harmony Farms, the Auburn, Washington farm linked to the most recent sprout-related outbreak, recalled sprouts that were distributed to restaurants, grocery stores, and retail outlets in Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Northern California. Several illnesses have been reported in Oregon, including two in Lane County and one in Polk County. One illness has been reported in Washington, with most cases occurring along the Interstate 5 corridor.

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BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of bacterial illnesses. William Marler represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million E. coli settlement with Jack in the Box in 1993. In 1998, Marler Clark resolved the Odwalla Juice E. coli outbreak for the five families whose children developed HUS and were severely injured after consuming contaminated apple juice for $12 million. Marler Clark presently represents over 100 victims of Salmonella poisonings in the States of Michigan, California and New York.

For more information on salmonella, visit the Marler Clark-sponsored Salmonella Blog and Salmonella informational site.

More about the Harmony Farms sprouts Salmonella outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.