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Clover sprouts taken off shelves.

Byline: Christian Wihtol The Register-Guard

Citing salmonella contamination, officials are telling consumers and retailers across Oregon and other regions of the Northwest to throw away any clover sprouts produced by Sprouters Northwest Inc. of Kent, Wash.

The brand is widely sold in major retail chains, including Albertsons and Safeway, Sprouters Northwest owner Bill Jones said Monday.

Jones said a U.S. Food and Drug Administration team is at the plant trying to determine the source of the bacterial contamination. It may have been the sprout seeds, which Sprouters Northwest buys from a supplier, Jones said. The seeds are being tested.

To date, at least seven people who ate the sprouts have been sickened by salmonella - three in Oregon (two in Bend and one in Multnomah County) and four in Washington, the state Public Health Division said Monday. The sprouts were sold in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska and possibly other states, as well as in British Columbia.

The cases of salmonella were all reported beginning between Dec. 4 and Dec. 17, except the most recent case, which is still being evaluated and may have begun later in December, the state said. No hospitalizations or deaths have been reported.

Sprouters Northwest has stopped producing sprouts until the case is resolved, Jones said. Because of the short shelf life of sprouts, most of the sprouts that might be contaminated have most likely already been eaten or discarded, he said.

But William Keene, a senior epidemiologist at the state Public Health Division, said it will be some time before the state will be able to say whether the spate of illnesses is over.

"We're certainly not ready to say it's over, and we won't be able to say that for several weeks," he said. The bacteria takes time to make people sick, people take time to report being sick, and stool samples take time to analyze and confirm, Keene said.

This is the fourth time since 1997 that Sprouters Northwest sprouts have been cited as a source of salmonella contamination, Keene said.

All Sprouters Northwest-produced clover sprout products are covered in the recall, the state said.

The recalled sprouts were sold at retail stores in 4-ounce and 5-ounce plastic containers; larger 1-pound bags and 2-pound trays were sold to grocery stores and wholesale suppliers, which in turn supplied sprouts to restaurants and other outlets. The clover varieties include Clover, Clover & Onion, Spicy Sprouts and Deli Sprouts. All packages carry the Sprouters Northwest brand name, the state said.

State health officials say eating sprouts can be hazardous.

"Once again, sprouts have been identified as the cause of an outbreak of salmonellosis. Consumers who have sprouts at home should check to see if they have any of the recalled products and, if so, should discard them. Retailers should immediately check their stocks and pull any clover products from Sprouters Northwest," said William Keene, a senior epidemiologist at the state Public Health Division.

Raw sprouts repeatedly have been identified as a cause of salmonellosis outbreaks, E. coli infections and other diseases, the state said.

"This is at least the 13th sprout-caused outbreak that has sickened Oregonians since 1995, when we first started warning consumers about the risks of eating sprouts. Anyone concerned about food-borne disease should consider this before eating sprouts," Keene said. The risk of severe illness from salmonella bacteria is particularly high among the elderly and the very young.

Contaminated seed is usually the source of salmonella tainting in sprouts, the state said.

Salmonella and E. coli can flourish in the warm, moist indoor environment in which seeds are sprouted. Or, the seed can become contaminated before it is bought by sprouters.

Harmful bacteria can be present in bird droppings, fertilizing manure or contaminated irrigation water that comes in contact with the seed, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Once Sprouters Northwest heard about the outbreak, it immediately decided to recall its clover sprouts.

"They have been cooperating fully," Keene said.

Retailers and wholesalers that have any of the recalled sprouts should segregate them from other produce and contact their distributor or Sprouters Northwest, 253-872-0577, for additional information, the state said.

Salmonellosis is an acute bacterial infection that can cause diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Symptoms usually develop within one to five days after eating contaminated food.
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Title Annotation:City/Region; Salmonella leads to a warning about recent Sprouters Northwest products
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1U9OR
Date:Jan 4, 2011
Words:713
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