Alfalfa sprouts distributed by Jack & The Green Sprouts have been connected to an E.Coli outbreak in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and apparently consumers remain at risk, given that company officials haven’t been too preoccupied with issuing a voluntary recall.
According to a press release shared by representatives of the Minnesota Department of Health on Wednesday, February 24, 7 Minnesota residents and 2 Wisconsin residents have contracted the very same E.Coli serotype (O157:H7), in January and at the beginning of February.
Furthermore, 8 of these 9 patients have declared that they consumed alfalfa sprouts produced by Jack & The Green Sprouts mere days before showing the first signs of infection.
Out of these sickened individuals, aged between 18 and 84, two required hospitalization, but eventually everyone managed to make a full recovery.
Joe Mahoney, owner of the fresh produce company based in River Falls, Wisconsin, has been quick to reject the accusation that alfalfa sprouts had been to blame for the transmission of the foodborne disease.
As Mahoney explained, extensive testing conducted on product samples and throughout the production facility has never shown the presence of E.Coli, Salmonella or any other harmful bacteria.
That is why a voluntary recall wasn’t deemed necessary when officials were first notified about the E.Coli outbreak, and alfalfa sprouts remained on supermarket shelves as before, being also distributed to restaurants, grocery stores, salad bars and retail co-operatives.
Today, February 25, allegedly due to excessive preoccupation with the customers’ health and well-being, a recall has finally been launched for alfalfa and onion sprouts produced by Jack & The Green Sprouts and distributed across the upper Midwest in clamshell packaging.
Retailers have been required to dispose of these food items immediately, restaurant owners are being urged not to serve these tainted legumes anymore, and clients who have already purchased the alfalfa sprouts are being strongly advised to avoid consuming them and instead immediately discard them.
That’s because E.Coli infections can result in unpleasant manifestations such as bloody diarrhea, abdomnial cramps, vomiting, nausea and mild fever (between 100 and 101 degrees Fahrenheit), but also in complications like hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can cause renal failure and death.
It’s unclear what results the food recall will yield, given the fact that the health crisis was actually first reported on February 1, and remained virtually unaddressed until now.
So far, the number of contaminated batches that will have to be recalled hasn’t been announced, but since alfalfa sprouts have quite a lengthy shelf life, it’s likely that quite a large amount of E. Coli infested alfalfa sprouts are still present in retail shops, local eateries and buyers’ kitchens even at the moment.
The E. Coli outbreak is now being investigated by Wisconsin and Minnesota health officials, aided by experts from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It’s well worth mentioning that sprouts have also been responsible for a recent Salmonella outbreak, which affected 3 persons from Oklahoma, and 5 others from Kansas.
The source of infection was produce made available by Sweetwater Farms, located in Inman, Kansas. The people who were eventually sickened had consumed the sprouts somewhere between December and January, and the most recent case reported in that outbreak was confirmed on January 21.
The reason why sprouts are so often involved in food recalls is because pathogens are extremely hard to remove from such germinating seeds, according to Amy Saupe, epidemiologist at the Foodborne Diseases Unit pertaining to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Even if people clean the sprouts thoroughly before consuming them, some bacteria may persist, which is why pregnant women, senior citizens, small children and individuals whose immune system is perturbed should steer clear of such raw plants.
The likelihood of contracting an infectious disease can only be reduced by cooking the legumes for long lengths of time, but this is bound to greatly lower their nutritional value.
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