As of December 15, 2014, a total of 111 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Enteritidis have been reported from 12 states linked to Wonton sprouts. Illnesses have surfaced in Connecticut (8), Maine (4), Maryland (5), Massachusetts (35), Montana (1), New Hampshire (6), New York (21), Ohio (3), Pennsylvania (17), Rhode Island (7), Vermont (3) and Virginia (1). Twenty-six percent of ill persons have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Collaborative investigation efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicate that bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods, Inc. of New York are the likely source of this outbreak.
And, my favorite sprouts lawsuits:
- Caldwell Foods Alfalfa Sprouts Salmonella Outbreak Lawsuit – California (2010)
- Caudill Alfalfa Sprouts Salmonella Outbreak Lawsuits – Multistate (2009)
- Jimmy John’s & Tiny Greens Organic Farms Salmonella Outbreak Lawsuits – Nationwide (2010)
- Sprouters Northwest Jimmy John’s Salmonella Outbreak Lawsuits – Washington, Oregon (2011)
- Jimmy John’s and Sprouts Extraordinaire E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits – Colorado (2008)
- Jimmy John’s Clover Sprouts E. coli O26 Outbreak Lawsuits – Multistate (2012)
- Evergreen Sprouts E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits – Idaho and Washington (2014)
“According to the FDA’s own 1999 advisory, Recommendations on Sprouted Seeds, sprouts have been increasingly implicated in foodborne outbreaks. The time has come to label sprouts as potentially hazardous,” says 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.
As far back as September 1998, the FDA and CDC issued a warning against sprouts urging, children, pregnant women, and the elderly that they should not eat alfalfa sprouts until growers find a way to reduce the risk of E. coli. They also warned that any people with weakened immune systems should avoid eating sprouts as well.
Although sprouts are often considered a “health food,” the warm, humid conditions needed for growing sprouts from seeds are also ideal for bacteria to flourish. Salmonella, E. coli, and other bacteria can grow to high levels without affecting the appearance of the sprouts.
Researchers have treated both seeds and sprouts with heat or washed them in solutions of chlorine, alcohol, and other chemicals. Some of these disinfectants reduced the levels of bacteria, but a potential hazard remained, especially for persons with weak immune systems. High temperatures that would kill the bacteria on the seeds would also keep them from sprouting.
My friends at Barf Blog document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found HERE.
Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants. The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.