You will never catch prominent food-safety attorney Bill Marler eating sprouts. Not on a heaping deli sandwich. Not on a freshly tossed salad. He puts them in the same category as raw milk — a food item he says is not worth the risk it carries. Unfortunately, 13 people sickened across four states have discovered that risk the hard way.
On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced they're investigating a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Muenchen linked to alfalfa sprouts produced by Sweetwater Farms LLC in Inman, Kan. Both irrigation water and alfalfa sprout samples have tested positive for salmonella, prompting the company to issue a voluntarily recall of sprouts from lot 042016. States affected include Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Pennsylvania.
And Wednesday, news broke of another outbreak linked to alfalfa sprouts. Nine people in Minnesota and Wisconsin have been sickened so far by E. coli-tainted sprouts. Health officials are warning consumers, retailers and restaurants to avoid sprouts grown by Jack & The Green Sprouts in River Falls, Wis.
For something many deem a "health food," sprouts regularly appear on official outbreak lists. Since 1998 there have been at least 49 foodborne outbreaks, including 24 multi-state outbreaks and 1,737 illnesses tied to sprouts, according to a tally kept by Colorado State University.
Sandwich chain Jimmy John's experienced multiple outbreaks linked to sprouts in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. Sprouts are still on the menu, but place your order online, and a less than appetizing warning pops up: "The consumption of raw sprouts may result in an increased risk of foodborne illness and poses a health risk to everyone. Click 'Yes' if you understand the potential risks, or 'Cancel' if you'd like to continue without adding sprouts."