Americans should not eat any raw alfalfa sprouts, or sprout blends containing alfalfa sprouts, until the origins of a salmonella Saintpaul outbreak has been determined, according to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The do-not-eat warning is most important for the elderly, young children, and those with compromised immune systems, who are at high risk of serious complications from a salmonella infection.
So far, 31 people have taken ill since mid-March in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia, and federal investigators warned that illnesses may be present -- but as yet undiagnosed -- in other states.
Federal investigators say the seeds of alfalfa sprouts may be the source of salmonella, since multiple sprout growers in multiple states all appear contaminated. (The widespread outbreak also suggests that growers have failed to adhere to voluntary sanitary guidelines, according to the FDA and CDC, because best practice guidelines call for disinfection with calcium hypochlorite before planting, and routing testing to detect salmonella or E. coli contamination before sprouts reach consumers.) "Because suspect lots of seeds may be sold around the country and may account for a large proportion of the alfalfa seeds currently being used by sprout growers, and cases of illness are spread across multiple states, FDA and CDC are issuing this general advisory (not to eat any alfalfa sprouts)."
In general, the FDA recommends these guidelines for those who continue to eat sprouts (though it recommends eating no alfalfa sprouts at this time).
Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses, such as meningitis and bone infections.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.