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Alfalfa sprouts recalled over salmonella concerns

Raw alfalfa sprouts sold to foodservice and retail are being voluntarily recalled by Caldwell Fresh Foods because of “links” to a 10-state outbreak of Salmonella Newport illness, the Food and Drug Administration said.

The Silver Spring-based FDA said the outbreak has hospitalized six people among the 22 stricken since March 1 by the same strain of salmonella. Eleven illnesses have been reported in California, two have been reported by both Nevada and Wisconsin and that there has been one illness apiece reported by Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico and Oregon, the FDA said.

The FDA put out word of the “urgent” nationwide recall of Caldwell Fresh Foods sprouts Friday. It said the Maywood, Calif.-based firm’s alfalfa sprouts “have been linked to an outbreak of SalmonellaNewport infections in consumers in ten states.”

Read the FDA's release here.

However, a recorded phone message by Caldwell Fresh Foods asserts that none of its products have been confirmed as the cause of the illnesses.

“Let me make one thing clear – We make food safety our most important priority,” company spokesman Maurie Thomas said in the recording late Sunday afternoon.

“There are no confirmed reports that alfalfa sprouts from our facility have caused anyone to become ill. There are no confirmed reports,” Thomas continued, “but as an extreme precaution, due to the possible association with a foodborne illness, we have voluntarily recalled our alfalfa sprouts.”

Some outbreak victims reported eating sprouts in restaurants, the FDA said.

The recall of Caldwell Fresh Foods sprouts involves those labeled as:

Caldwell Fresh Foods alfalfa sprouts in 4-ounce plastic cups, 1-pound plastic bags and in 2-pound and 5-pound plastic bags in cardboard boxes with a sticker affixed with the printed words “Caldwell Fresh Foods.”

Nature’s Choice alfalfa sprouts in 4-ounce plastic cups.

California Exotics brands alfalfa sprouts in 5-ounce plastic clamshell containers.

FDA representatives said the sprouts were distributed to a variety of restaurants, delicatessens and retailers, including Trader Joe's and Wal-Mart stores. They added that restaurateurs, delicatessen operators and consumers should not purchase, eat or use raw sprouts from Caldwell Fresh Foods, and added that the sprouts should be returned to the place of purchase for a refund and disposal.

Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy persons infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

The FDA said it is investigating the outbreak in cooperation with the CDC, the California Department of Public Health, and public health agencies in other affected states. FDA and CDPH personnel are inspecting Caldwell Fresh Foods’ facility and collecting samples, the federal agency said.

Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected].

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