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March 17,  2003

Salmonellosis Outbreak Prompt Alfalfa Sprout Recall

(SafetyAlerts) - Public health officials in the Oregon Department of Human Services today announced a voluntary recall of Harmony Farms brand alfalfa sprouts from retail outlets throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington.

"These alfalfa sprouts have been identified as the cause of an ongoing outbreak of salmonellosis," said Emilio DeBess, DVM, MPH, epidemiologist in DHS. "Consumers who have them in their refrigerators should discard them immediately."

To date in 2003, eight persons in Oregon and one Southwest Washington state resident have been infected by Salmonella serotype Saintpaul. More cases are expected. "The number of cases has increased steadily over the past few days,"
De Bess says.

The contaminated sprouts were sold under the name of Harmony Farms of Auburn, Washington. Sprouts are distributed through a number of wholesalers to grocery stores, restaurants, and other retail outlets in Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Northern California.

" Harmony Farms has agreed to voluntarily recall its alfalfa sprouts and is cooperating fully with our ongoing investigation," DeBess said.

The recall covers all alfalfa sprouts produced by Harmony Farms. These sprouts have been sold in 5-oz. plastic "clamshell" packages labeled as "Fresh Alfalfa Sprouts," "Gourmet Salad Sprouts" and "Fresh Alfalfa and Oregon Onion Sprouts," and all contain alfalfa sprouts. Also included in this recall are cases of Harmony Farms 1 pound, 2 pound and 3 pound "Alfalfa Sprouts." They are sold in many supermarkets including Safeway, Fred Meyer, Winco Foods and other grocery outlets.

State and federal agencies are working with Harmony Farms to remove potentially contaminated sprouts from distribution. Retailers and wholesalers who hold any of the recalled sprouts should segregate them from other produce and contact Harmony Farms (253) 833-8945 for additional information. Restaurant and deli operators should check their stock immediately to identify and pull any of the recalled product.

Salmonellosis is an acute bacterial infection that can cause diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Symptoms usually develop within one to five days after eating contaminated food. Most cases resolve without the need for medical attention, and antibiotics are not recommended for persons with uncomplicated diarrheal illness. People who have eaten sprouts and developed severe symptoms should discuss this exposure with their doctor. Some persons with salmonellosis develop serious illness that can lead to hospitalization and even death, according to DeBess.

The Saintpaul serotype is "uncommon" in Oregon; over the past decade only 11 cases per year each year.

DeBess said that raw sprouts have been repeatedly identified as the cause of outbreaks of salmonellosis, E. coli O157:H7 infections and other diseases. "This is the fifth sprout-caused outbreak that has sickened Oregonians since 1996," DeBess said. "We suspect there have probably been others that went undetected. None of the other outbreaks have been associated with Harmony Farms."

"Anyone concerned about their risk of foodborne disease should consider this information before deciding to eat sprouts. The risk of severe illness is particularly high among the elderly, the immunocompromised, and the very young, although it is worth pointing out that none of the cases identified so far in this outbreak fit that high-risk profile," said DeBess.


Source: FDA

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