Alfalfa sprouts recalled after at least 22 ill

Salmonella outbreak traced to California company, which has sold sprouts in at least 18 states

Published May 24, 2010 1:47PM (EDT)

Salmonella found in raw alfalfa sprouts appears to have sickened at least 22 people in 10 states, including a baby in Oregon, prompting a nationwide recall of the product.

Caldwell Fresh Foods of Maywood, Calif., announced the recall Friday. According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, which also announced the recall Friday, Caldwell's alfalfa product was sold in 18 states in the West, Midwest and South.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 people were sickened in California, two were sickened in Nevada and two were sickened in Wisconsin. Arizona, Oregon, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico and Colorado each had one person become ill, the CDC said. The illnesses began between March 1 and May 2 and six people were hospitalized.

A representative for Caldwell did not return a call Friday and a release issued by the company did not list the states to which the company sold the alfalfa sprouts.

The company's release did say the alfalfa sprouts were sold at restaurants, delicatessens and retailers nationwide, including many in California. Those California stores include Wal-Mart, Trader Joe's, Kings Supermarket, Numero Uno, Cardenas Markets, Gonzales Northgate Markets, Jons Marketplace and Canton Foods, the company said.

Oregon officials said the sprouts may have gone to more than 400 stores, including Wal-Marts in several states. Wal-Mart did not respond to a request for comment.

The company said the recalled alfalfa sprouts were sold in plastic cups and plastic bags under the Caldwell Fresh Foods brand, plastic cups under the Nature's Choice brand and plastic containers under the California Fresh Exotics brand.

William E. Keene, a senior epidemiologist at the Oregon health department, said Caldwell Fresh Foods is cooperating with an investigation.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in those with weakened immune systems. It can cause diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

Keene said the baby who was sickened was a 4-month-old boy who was fed alfalfa sprouts mixed with other foods. His sickness made the cause of the outbreak easier to identify, Keene said, because the infant had not yet eaten many foods. He was hospitalized but has now recovered.

Oregon health officials said this is the 12th outbreak in sprouts that has sickened people in the state since 1995. Keene went as far as to warn against eating raw sprouts at all, saying anyone concerned with foodborne illness should be aware of the number of outbreaks.

Alfalfa sprouts are grown in a moist environment, heightening the chances of bacterial growth. The Food and Drug Administration and the CDC recommend at all times that people with a high risk of complications, such as the elderly, children and those with weakened immune systems, not eat raw sprouts because of the risk of contamination with salmonella.

This is the second large multistate outbreak in fresh produce announced this month. The CDC said Friday that they have identified additional people sickened by an outbreak of E. coli in romaine lettuce, bringing the total to 26 people sickened in Michigan, New York, Ohio, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. Seven additional cases are suspected, the CDC said.



Centers for Disease Control:

Caldwell Fresh Foods release:

By Mary Clare Jalonick

Related Topics ------------------------------------------