Salmonella in 10 states linked to raw bean sprouts, latest of several sprout outbreaks

Markets Associated Press

Raw sprouts are linked to dozens of cases of food poisoning — again.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 63 people from 10 states concentrated on the East Coast fell ill with salmonella linked to bean sprouts from a supplier in New York City. The CDC said the supplier, Wonton Food Inc. of Brooklyn, has agreed to stop production for now.

The outbreak is one of three recently linked to raw sprouts. Two listeria deaths and three listeria illnesses were linked to consumption of mung bean sprouts in the Midwest over the summer, and 19 E. coli illnesses were linked to raw clover sprouts in mostly Western states in May.

Raw sprouts are a frequent culprit in foodborne illness because of the moist, warm conditions in which they are grown; there have been more than 30 outbreaks associated with different types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts since the mid-1990s. Federal regulators have warned against eating them at all, advising consumers to always cook them thoroughly and to ask that raw sprouts be left off their plate at restaurants.

Contamination usually happens when the sprouts are grown or harvested and can be impossible to wash off.

"The conditions for growing sprouts are perfect for growing bacteria and that's why they are so dangerous," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, a food safety expert with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

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The CDC said that 78 percent of those interviewed in the current outbreak reported eating bean sprouts or items containing bean sprouts in the week before they became sick. The CDC and Food and Drug Administration found that Wonton Food was a supplier to restaurants where those who became sick had eaten.

Wonton Food "has verbally agreed to voluntarily stop the production and sale of their bean sprouts while they take steps to prevent Salmonella contamination," the CDC said.

A person answering the phone at Wonton Food said the company had no comment and declined to give their name.

The illnesses were reported from the end of September to the beginning of November, according to the CDC. People were sickened in 10 states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The one ill person from Montana was likely exposed on a trip to the East Coast, the CDC said.

Salmonella illness usually develops 12 to 72 hours after infection and can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. The illness lasts around 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.

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