FDA Updates: Sprout safety
High risk groups warned: don't eat alfalfa sprouts
FDA Consumer Updates, November/December 1998
A recent California investigation of Salmonella and Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreaks associated with raw alfalfa sprouts has prompted FDA to reaffirm health advisories cautioning people at high risk for food-borne disease to avoid eating this food product.
High-risk groups include children, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems.
FDA's advisory, issued in August, reaffirms similar advice given by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year. FDA's advisory is among a number of steps the federal government and sprout growers are taking to address safety concerns of alfalfa sprouts.
Raw sprouts have been recognized as a source of food-borne illness in the United States since 1995. In California, they have recently been associated with three Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks affecting about 60 people.
An E. coli O157:H7 infection can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can lead to kidney failure or death in children and equally serious complications in older adults. Salmonella can cause serious illness in children, older adults, and immune-compromised people. In healthy people, these bacteria can cause diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramping, or fever for several days.
Consumers who have eaten raw sprouts and are experiencing severe diarrhea and other extreme symptoms of food-borne infections should see their health-care providers.
FDA's advisory is an interim measure while the agency and industry look for long-term solutions to ensuring the safety of raw sprouts. In 1997, FDA and CDC charged the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (a scientific panel that advises the government on food safety) with reviewing data on sprout-associated outbreaks and recommending preventive methods. FDA is now working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service to identify possible interventions, including irradiation.
In addition, FDA has in place a nationwide field assignment to determine current sprout practices during plant growing, washing and packaging and is analyzing samples for microbes. FDA also is meeting with industry groups and the general public to discuss ways to ensure the safety of sprouts.
Sprouts lead beef
in E. coli cases . . .
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