E. Coli Outbreak Linked to Sprouts in Six States

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The CDC is warning people not to consume red clover sprouts sold by Chicago Indoor Garden. To date, there have been 39 E. coli infections linked to this product across six states.

Recall Details

The following package sizes of red clover sprouts, salads, and mixed greens are part of this recall:

  • Red Clover 4oz. clamshell
  • Red Clover 2lb. boxes
  • Sprout Salad 6oz. clamshell
  • Mixed Greens 4oz. clamshell
  • Spring Salad 6oz. clamshell

The packages have a best-by date of 12/01/2019-3/12/2020.

The sprouts were distributed to a number of retails, including Whole Foods, throughout the country. So far, illnesses have been reported in Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Texas, and Utah that are linked to these sprouts.

FDA researchers were able to match the genetic analysis of this strain of E. coli to the red clover sprouts sold by Chicago Indoor Garden and to an earlier outbreak last year from a different batch of sprouts that were served at Jimmy John’s sandwich restaurants. The agency determined that the sprouts were all grown from a common seed lot.

Related: Deadly Mushrooms Recalled in Multi-State Outbreak

What You Need to Do Next

As ever, if you have purchased a recalled food product, you should not eat it. Instead, throw the product away or return it to the store where you purchased it for a refund.

It’s also a good idea to avoid sprouts at restaurants or salad bars if you are vulnerable to developing a potentially life-threatening case of food poisoning. E. coli can, in extreme cases, cause kidney failure and death.

Why Are Sprouts Often Contaminated?

The FDA recommends that “children, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind.” But why is that the case?

Raw sprouts have been linked to some of the biggest, deadliest food-borne illness outbreaks in history. In 1996, at least 10,000 people became sick worldwide from eating sprouts. A 2011 outbreak in Germany killed more than 30 people.

Sprouts are essentially the seedlings of various plants, such as clover, beans, radishes, and alfalfa. Sprouts of all types have been linked to E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.

The issue seems to be that the seeds sprouts are grown from can become contaminated and then sorted into bags with many thousands of previously “clean” seeds. Now you have an entire batch of seeds for sprouts that are contaminated.

The food-borne bacteria can be deposited through animal droppings or contaminated water, then remain dormant in the seeds until they are soaked in warm water to germinate. The bacteria continue to thrive in these warm, moist conditions.

And since they are eaten raw, there’s no point in which the bacteria are killed off before you consume a salad or sandwich topped with a handful of crunchy, disease-laden sprouts.