Today, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) confirmed five cases of salmonella that might be linked to sprouts from a Nebraska company. KDHE said it had identified a possible link to sprouts from SunSprout Enterprises, Inc. of Omaha, Neb., but added that laboratory testing hasn’t confirmed it yet. The sprouts also have been linked to salmonella cases in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.
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. 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.