Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals including birds, and are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Contaminated foods are often of animal origin, such as beef, poultry, milk, or eggs, but all foods, including sprouts and other vegetables may become contaminated.

While most people recover successfully from salmonellosis, a few may develop a chronic condition called Reiter’s syndrome.   This syndrome can last for months or years and can lead to arthritis. Though a person with chronic salmonellosis may have no symptoms, they can spread the disease by not washing their hands before working on a sprout production line.  An infected production worker, who forgot to wash with soap after using the bathroom, could easily contaminate sprouts.  People who have salmonellosis should work around sprouts until they have been shown to no longer be carrying the Salmonella bacterium.

Infection frequently occurs after handling pets, particularly reptiles like snakes, turtles, and lizards.  People should always wash their hands immediately after handling a reptile, even if the reptile is healthy. Adults should also be careful that children wash their hands after handling a reptile.  Salmonella may be found in the feces of other pets; especially those with diarrhea, and people can become infected if they do not wash their hands after contact with these feces.

The most likely source of contamination in sprouts is by sprouting seed that is contaminated.  To date, all Salmonella related outbreaks in sprouts have been attributed to contaminated seed.  This is why it is critical for growers to purchase ISS Screened Sprouting Seed and retest it once it arrives at their facility. Thensanitize the seed, and finally, test the sprout run-off water.

Hands should be washed before handling seed, sprouts, or equipment used in the sprouting or harvesting of sprouts, and between handling different sprout lots. Contaminated seed and sprouts usually look and smell normal.

Unless treated properly, Salmonella can escape from the intestine and spread by blood to other organs, sometimes leading to death.

Every year, the CDC receives reports of 40,000 cases of salmonellosis in the United States. The agency estimates that 1.4 million people in this country are infected, however, and that 1,000 people die each year with salmonellosis. Salmonellosis, or salmonella, is an infection caused by Salmonella bacteria.

While Salmonella infections are increasing in the United States, sprout related infections have declined dramatically.  Sprout producers continue to increase their understanding of the problem and institute active measures to prevent contaminated seeds from infecting their crops.