Sprouts and Foodborne Illness Have a Long History, Says Marler Clark Food Safety Expert

California-based Caldwell Fresh Foods has recalled raw alfalfa sprouts distributed to retail locations in at least 19 states due to contamination by Salmonella Newport. 23 people have been infected in the outbreak from 10 states, including a Multnomah County, Oregon baby boy who had to be hospitalized for treatment. At least 5 other outbreak cases required hospitalization as well.

The outbreak is yet another in a long list of food poisoning incidents linked to raw sprouts, according to Marler Clark food safety expert Drew Falkenstein. In fact, he says, raw sprouts have been linked to at least 37 outbreaks of Salmonella, E. coli, or Listeria monocytogenes since 1990. These 37 outbreaks have caused approximately 2,273 confirmed illnesses.

The association between raw sprouts and foodborne disease has not gone unnoticed by public health authorities and other organizations working to improve the safety of our food supply, which frequently identify raw sprouts as a risky food that pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems should avoid. The Center for Science in the Public Interest called raw sprouts one of the 10 riskiest foods. And the Food and Drug Administration has issued specific industry guidance related to the cultivation of sprouts to reduce the likelihood of sprout outbreaks.

According to the CDC, the number of ill people in the Caldwell sprouts Salmonella Newport outbreak in each state is as follows: AZ (1), CA (11), CO (1), ID (1), IL (1), MO (1), NM (1), NV (2), OR (1), and WI (2). Among those for whom information is available about when symptoms started, illnesses began between March 1, 2010 and May 2, 2010.