Just a day after Congress passed legislation to overhaul inadequate food safety laws, another food poisoning scare has hit the headlines. Once again, the bacteria salmonella is the culprit, but this time instead of contaminating eggs, the pathogen has been linked to alfalfa sprouts.
Some 89 people have been sickened in 15 states and the District of Columbia, according to a Thursday announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About one in four of those confirmed to be infected with salmonella required hospitalization. No deaths have been reported, and only one of the cases occurred in Massachusetts.
Alfalfa sprouts have had a notorious history when it comes to being the culprits of foodborne illness. Over the past 15 years, at least 30 outbreaks of food poisoning have been associated with eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA's website even recommends against eating raw sprouts stating the following:
* Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).
* Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Cooking kills the harmful bacteria.
* Request that raw sprouts not be added to your food. If you purchase a sandwich or salad at a restaurant or delicatessen, check to make sure that raw sprouts have not been added.
I wish I knew that last bit of advice last night when I allowed a food server to add some raw sprouts to my hummus wrap. I also wish President Obama would hurry up and sign the food safety bill -- he promised to do so but has 10 days -- so the FDA can start figuring out how to keep fresh produce like spinach and alfalfa from being contaminated with dangerous bacteria spread by animals.
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