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Alfalfa, Clover Sprouts Implicated in E. Coli, Salmonella Outbreaks, Study Says

Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Alfalfa and clover sprouts were to blame for more than half of confirmed foodborne illnesses reported in California between 1996 and 1998, according to a study published last week in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The study investigated six multi-county outbreaks of bacterial infections and found 600 confirmed cases of disease and two deaths associated with eating sprouts. The study also estimates an additional 22,800 people were infected, but never fingered sprouts as the cause.
During the study period, sprouts caused more outbreaks of E. Coli O157:H7 and Salmonella than any other food or source, including meat, eggs and contaminated water.
Seeds from which the sprouts are grown are typically the source of the bacteria. To grow sprouts, the seeds are put in a rotating drum, misted with warm water and left at room temperature, providing a perfect incubator to increase the population of any bacteria that may be present. Since sprouts are most often eaten raw on salads or sandwiches, the bacteria remains intact.
FDA recommends cooking the sprouts to kill the bacteria. Merely washing the sprouts is not adequate as the bacteria can become internalized during sprouting, according to FDA.

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