FDA advises not to eat Evergreen Produce brand sprouts

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising people to not eat Evergreen Produce brand alfalfa sprouts or spicy sprouts as they may contain Salmonella Enteritidis, which differs from the pathogen found in a European outbreak.

The sprouts are possibly linked to 20 reported cases, including one hospitalization, of the disease in Idaho, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota and Washington state. This strain of Salmonella is rarely seen at this frequency, health officials said today.

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most persons recover without treatment.

However, some individuals may require hospitalization from severe diarrhea. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream and then to other body sites. It can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to become severely ill from Salmonella infection.

Consumers, retailers and others who have alfalfa sprouts or spicy sprouts in plastic bags labeled "Evergreen Produce" or "Evergreen Produce Inc." should discard them in a sealed container so people and animals, including wild animals, cannot eat them, the FDA advised.

Sprouts are a known source of food borne illness. Since 1996, there have been at least 30 reported outbreaks of food borne illness associated with different types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts. Most of these outbreaks were caused by Salmonella and E. coli. To reduce the chance of food borne illness, FDA official say consumers need to cook sprouts thoroughly and to request raw sprouts not be added to food.

The spicy sprouts are packaged in four-ounce plastic bags with pre-printed labels and 1-pound plastic bags with stick-on labels.

The FDA is investigating the problem in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health agencies in those states where illnesses have occurred. The investigation is ongoing. The FDA is also working with state authorities to take appropriate action to address any product that may be remaining on the market.

Consumers with questions about sprout safety should contact 1-800-SAFEFOOD.

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