The Salmonella-sprouts outbreak that we formerly reported was linked to illnesses in Michigan has grown.  Health officials from multiple states (Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia) report at least 31 confirmed illnesses, which means that the number of actual illnesses in the outbreak is probably over one hundred.  The FDA is on the case (see Bill’s recent post), as are the health departments of many states.  Interestingly, the strain of Salmonella involved in this sprout outbreak is the same (Salmonella Saintpaul) as that involved in the CW Sprouts outbreak.   The common link is thought to be the seeds.

Some ideas:

§ Seeds for sprout production must be grown under good agricultural practices. Purchasers of seed should request verification from their supplier that appropriate practices were followed.

§ Seeds for sprouting should be treated with one or more treatments (such as 20,000 ppm calcium hypochlorite) that have been approved for reduction of pathogens in seeds or sprouts. Some treatments can be applied at the sprouting facility while others will have to be applied earlier in the seed production process. However, at least one approved antimicrobial treatment should be applied immediately before sprouting.

§ Microbiological testing of spent irrigation water from each production lot for Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7 (or EHEC), and Listeria monocytogenes. There is a potential that pathogens may survive antimicrobial treatments, even if used properly, so testing becomes the last chance to detect contaminated lots. Because testing for pathogens can be done with irrigation water as early as 48 hours into what is generally a 3 to 10 day growing period, producers who plan accordingly can obtain test results before shipping product without losing product shelf-life. Testing, whether done by the producer or contracted out, should be done by trained personnel, in a qualified laboratory, using validated methods.