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Davis, California

Monday, September 27, 2021

Alfalfa sprouts contaminated by bacteria

The California Department of Public Health has warned consumers not to eat certain brands of alfalfa sprouts due to salmonella contamination.

Salad Cosmo USA Corp. of Dixon, Calif., has recalled Salad Cosmo Alfalfa Sprouts throughout California and Washington, and Always Fresh and Alfa One packaged by J.H. Caldwell and Sons Inc., have been recalled in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Recent contamination in alfalfa sprouts caused supermarkets such as SaveMart to remove the vegetables off the shelves, according to the press release.

So far, there have been no reported illnesses.

“The source of contamination is under investigation, and scientific research has documented that seeds are a likely source of contamination,” said spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health Lea Brooks. “This is certainly one area that will be examined during the investigation.”

Although no illnesses have been reported, salmonella causes fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea and nausea. Salmonella is a food-borne illness that can lead to serious infection in children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems.

“Consuming raw sprouts is risky especially for people with weakened immune systems,” Brooks said.

Alfalfa gets contaminated through the process and sprouts can become affected in many different ways, said statewide alfalfa and forage extension specialist Dan Putman.

“There were indications several years ago that there are field contaminations during or after harvest or during sprouting processes,” Putman said.

Alfalfa contamination is considerably rare, said agronomy farm adviser with the UC Cooperative extension Shannon Mueller.

“The seed can get contaminated through the fields, through trucking, through harvest operations and to the field where they are being processed,” Mueller said.

Although alfalfa sprouts can get contaminated anywhere in the process of being produced, the sprout industry tries its best to reduce any signs of contamination.

“The sprout industry has been very proactive,” Mueller said. “The seed is tested through several processes to minimize the risk of food-borne illnesses. We are an industry that has tackled the issue head-on and will reduce any risk.”

Alfalfa sprouts go through several processes before being sold to the public. Even though there was alfalfa contamination, the industry recalled the sprouts quickly, proving that the safety protocols are promising.

“Even when there is a recall, there is an indication that the system is working,” Mueller said. “If testing shows any issue with the safety of the product, it can be recalled and prevent any incidents of food-borne illnesses.”

Sprouts are usually eaten raw with no additional treatments like cooking that eliminate bacteria that can cause disease.

Consumers who purchased these products should immediately discard or return their purchase for a refund. If there are any concerns, call (800) 495-3232.

JANET HUNG can be reached at city@californiaaggie.com.

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