Sprouts recalled: salmonella outbreaks not uncommon, could be prevented


HELENA, MT — Montana sprout producer Down to Earth Sprouts recalled alfalfa sprouts and mixed spicy sprouts on Thursday after discovering they were potentially contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. The sprouts were grown from alfalfa seeds supplied by a producer whose seeds were recently linked to sprout recalls for potential Salmonella contamination in five states.

In early June, The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers of the dangers of consuming raw sprouts after twelve people in Washington and Oregon were confirmed to be ill with Salmonella infections linked to alfalfa sprouts. The sprouts implicated in that outbreak were produced by Sprouters Northwest Inc., a Kent, Washington firm.

“Sprouts have been implicated in an increasing number of foodborne illness outbreaks in recent years, and although procedures have been developed to significantly reduce bacterial contamination, not all sprout growers have adopted techniques to decrease the risk of contaminated produce,” said William Marler, Managing partner of Marler Clark, the Seattle food safety law firm.

In 1999, the FDA announced new guidelines for the growing of sprouts, including using calcium hypochlorite treatment on seeds. This treatment exposes seeds to high levels of chlorine, killing bacteria, but leaving seeds unharmed. Since its introduction, manufacturers who consistently use this seed disinfectant treatment have not been implicated in foodborne illness outbreaks.

“Outbreaks related to not only sprouts, but to produce in general, have been on the rise in recent years. Producers of fresh produce should be implementing safeguards that protect their consumers and, therefore, themselves.” Marler continued. Marler Clark represents victims of two outbreaks linked to sprouts produced by Harmony Farms, an Auburn, Washington, firm, and has also litigated against Hydro-Harvest and Pacific Coast Sprout Farms on behalf of Salmonella victims.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail, and elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. A small number of people infected with Salmonella will develop pains in their joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination – a condition known as Reiter’s syndrome. This condition can last for months or years, and can lead to chronic arthritis, which is difficult to treat.

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BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of foodborne 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 several states. For more information on Salmonella, visit www.about-salmonella.com, or www.foodborneillness.com.