Growers Angered by CDC
GrowersAngered by CDC’s “Old News”
International Specialty Supply
January 13, 2002
TheCDC article “Outbreak of Salmonella …Associated with EatingAlfalfa Sprouts …February–April 2001″ (see the January 10thissue of Sproutnet), came out at5 PM on January 10. By that evening it was on national and some localnews. A streamer at the bottom of the screen on CNN warned people tocook alfalfa sprouts because 32 people came down with salmonella in 2001 fromeating them.
CDCRenews Sprout Warning
ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) — Federal healthofficials Thursday renewed warnings about the raw alfalfa sprouts often servedon sandwiches and salads, saying they can be contaminated with salmonella or E.coli bacteria.
Thesprouts should be thoroughly cooked to kill the bacteria, and some people shouldstay away altogether, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
TheFood and Drug Administration warned Americans four years ago not to eat rawalfalfa, clover and other sprouts after hundreds of reports of bacteria-relatedillnesses.
Thenew warning came after a CDC investigation of a salmonella outbreak thatsickened 32 people last year in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.The outbreak, which caused diarrhea and urinary tract infections, was traced toa batch of raw alfalfa sprouts.
TheCDC said even washed sprouts need to be fully cooked to kill any bacteria.People at higher risk for sickness — children, the elderly and the chronicallyill — should avoid them altogether.
CDC Warns of Raw Alfalfa Sprouts
Filed at 10:25 a.m. ET
By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — Federal health officials Thursday renewed warnings about the rawalfalfa sprouts often served on sandwiches and salads, saying they can becontaminated with salmonella or E. coli bacteria.
The sprouts should be thoroughly cooked to kill the bacteria, and some peopleshould stay away altogether, the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionsaid.
The Food and Drug Administration warned Americans four years ago not to eat rawalfalfa, clover and other sprouts after hundreds of reports of bacteria-relatedillnesses.
The new warning came after a CDC investigation of a salmonella outbreak thatsickened 32 people last year in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.The outbreak, which caused diarrhea and urinary tract infections, was traced toa batch of raw alfalfa sprouts.
The CDC said even washed sprouts need to be fully cooked to kill any bacteria.People at higher risk for sickness — children, the elderly and the chronicallyill — should avoid them altogether.
CDC Advises Against Raw Sprouts
WIRE: 01/10/2002 4:45 pm ET, Reuters News Service
By Paul Simao
ATLANTA (Reuters) – People, particularly young children, theelderly and those with weak immune systems, should avoid eating raw sproutsbecause the crunchy, protein-packed foods could cause salmonella and otherpossibly fatal infections, U.S. federal health experts said on Thursday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its advisory afterinvestigating an outbreak of a rare form of salmonella last year among more thantwo dozen people in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.
The outbreak, which was linked to consumption of alfalfasprouts, produced severe diarrhea, urinary tract infections and other symptomsin the patients. Diarrhea is especially dangerous for infants, the elderly andthose suffering from HIV and other immune system diseases.
“The immuno-compromised people could develop shock anddie from the infection,” said Dr. Mark Beatty of the CDC’s National Centerfor Infectious Diseases. He said healthy people were at a lower risk for suchcomplications.
Beatty said last year’s outbreak in the four western statesrevealed a “misconception” that sprouts were healthy food. At leastthree of the people involved in the outbreak ate sprouts partly for healthreasons.
Once perceived as perfect foods for an increasinglyhealth-conscious nation, clover, alfalfa and radish sprouts have in the pastdecade gained a dodgy reputation as scientists and health officials linked themto food-borne illnesses.
The problemis that sprouts are incubated and grown in a moist, humid environment, theperfect breeding ground for bacteria, and can become contaminated throughexposure to feces, untreated water and improperly cleaned harvest and processingmachines.
Last year’s outbreak was traced to alfalfa sprouts from asingle producer, which subsequently issued a voluntary recall and ceased allproduction pending an internal review. The seeds involved were imported fromAustralia late in 2000.
Decontaminating seed sprouts is a difficult — perhapsimpossible — chore as bacteria can hide away in tiny cracks and surviveprocessing. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that producers soak theseeds in a calcium hypochlorite solution for 15 minutes.
The FDA also recommends that consumers cook sprouts to reducethe risk of illness. The Atlanta-based CDC and other public health officialshave noted that there is no sure-fire method to completely eliminate bacteriafrom the seeds.
Many would rather see consumers avoid sprouts altogether. Butorganic growers, such as Sproutpeople based in Viroqua, Wisconsin, argue thatthe dangers from eating sprouts have been exaggerated.
“We feel that the facts show clearly that our seeds arecompletely safe and that, in fact, sprouts as a whole are much safer than manyother food products,” the group says in a message on its Web sitewww.sproutpeople.com.
Copyright 2001 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Ireceived calls and emails all day Friday from growers who were angered bythe old news. Many feel that a response to the press is required. Itoo am frustrated that no mention has been made about the tremendous strides theindustry has made toward food safety. Several outbreaks have beenprevented by post testing the product. There were likely other outbreaksprevented by growers inspecting their seed for urine and feces before acceptingit into their facilities. ISS prevented an E.coli 0157:H7 outbreak in peasprouts through its diligent sampling and testing program.
Thepublic has the right to know about outbreaks, but I think advising people tocook alfalfa sprouts is silly at best. There is no way to guarantee, 100%,that people won’t get ill from eating in restaurants. Yet I have not seena warning telling people to stay away from restaurants.
As faras responding to the press, I think the less said the better. Our bestresponse is to not have any more outbreaks. This means educating growersin food safety and the importance of good manufacturing practices. Itcannot be reiterated enough that food safety involves a series of risk reductionsteps. Seed has been suspected in nearly all the outbreaks.
Riskreduction steps related to seed would include:
- Buy seed from a seed supplier who properly samples each bag of seed, inspects the seed for indicators of pathogens (urine, feces, insect parts, excessive damage, etc), and tests it pathogens.
- Get a report with the seed that tells what testing has been done, who did it, when it was done, and what the results were.
- When you receive seed, sample it, inspect it, and retest it.
- Sanitize the seed using the FDA guidelines.
- Post test the sprouts and hold the sprouts until negative results are received on the crop and all crops grown with it that could cross contaminate it*.
*Pleaseread and understand the following. If you don’t understand, please call orwrite me. Don’t grow two different aged crops at the same time in the same Rota-TechRotary Drum or on the same TracSystem Rack or anywhere that the two crops could cross contaminate eachother. If the two crops come off at different times, you could get anegative from a crop and send it out, only to get a positive from a crop grownwith it but started later. By the time you get the positive results backfrom the later started crop, the first crop has already hit the market. Itwould have been contaminated after the sample was taken forpathogen testing. You would therefore get a negative onpositive (contaminated) sprouts!
As anexample, suppose you start alfalfa on day 0 and place it on the bottom 5trays of a growing rack. You then test the crop on day 2.Then you start more alfalfa on day 3 and place it on the racks directly abovethe first crop (with water dripping from this new crop to the bottom crop). On day four, the results of your first crop come back negative and you ship outyour crop. The second crop is tested on day 5 and you get the results onday 7 that this top crop has salmonella. By then, the bottom crop hasalready been shipped out. It had a negative test, but the sample was takenbefore you placed contaminated sprouts directly above them to grow. Inother words, you have shipped out contaminated product.
Tocompound the problem, you don’t have the first crop in your cooler toretest. Even if the second crop was a false positive, what do you do untilyou get the confirmation results, leave the possibly contaminated product on themarket? It may be in warehouses ready to ship to the individual stores. Your dilemma is that if you recall the product from the warehouses, you mightget it all, negating the necessity to warning the public. But if youdon’t get it all, the stores will initiate a recall. And, if theconfirmation tests from the second crop come back negative, you have initiated arecall for nothing. It will still likely be reported to the FDA orCDC with an investigation to follow.
Tohelp avoid this problem you might consider labeling each Rota-Tech and eachTrac System rack. Track the movement of the sprouts from the Rota-Tech tothe rack. If your sprouts from one RT get spread onto 6.25 racks, don’tput any more sprouts on that last rack. Go to another rack to spread fromyour second RT.
If youmust start two different crops in the same RT, rack, or other growingequipment, hold the first crop until results from the second crop have come backnegative.