Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Chia Seeds

Salmonella

Sprouted chia seeds have been linked a rash of salmonella outbreaks recently. The Centers of Disease Control and prevention is investigating the cause of the outbreak across the United States and Canada. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 70 people in the have been infected with salmonella and E.coli. The bacteria were found in sprouted chia seeds and sprouted clover.

Chia seed products have infected 21 people across 12 states including California and 34 people in Canada. Sprouted clover has infection 17 people across five states; half were hospitalized. There have been several outbreaks in the past few months. Other salmonella infections recently have been caused by pet bearded dragons, Foster Farms chicken and improper food handling in the service industry, which spread the norovirus.

Sprouted chia seed power is linked to the outbreak of three different salmonella strains. E.coli O121 is linked to sprouted clover. This particular E. coli strain is characterized by bloody diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is caused by the bacterium Shiga toxin-producing STEC. Salmonella symptoms begin 12 to 72 hours after infection and Abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever.

Several chia powder brands have been recalled since the outbreaks including Williams-Sonoma, Organic Traditions and Green Smoothie Girl. Navitas Naturals chia powder was determined to be associated with the outbreak. The company began its recall in May, but announced on June 6 that it would be expanding it to include additional best by dates.

Navitas CEO Zach Adelman explained FDA investigations and the California Department of Public Health found that one of its supplies, Health Matters America Inc. expanded its recall on its Organic Traditions products. Navitas, as a result, expanded its voluntary recall as well. “Our business depends on providing safe and healthy food, and we will not take chances with our consumers’ well-being,” he said.

The chia seed sprout contamination occurred prior to them being dried and ground for powder. Chia sprouts harbor the seeds, which are removed from the sprout and sold in seed form or ground into chia powder. The warmth and moisture of the sprouting process allows any microbes that may be on the seeds to grow which puts sprouts so sprouts are already considered high risk. During the chia seed sprouting process the salmonella microbes remained when the sprouts were dried and ground, causing them to become contaminated. The CDC has recommended that consumers not eat any recalled chia products.

The FDA is currently investigating Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, LLC of Idaho, which it believes is the source of the E. coli outbreak. During its investigation the FDA discovered that two employees scooped mung bean sprouts with scratched and chipped tennis rackets that had frayed plastic and sponge-type handles from the harvester. The employees then used them to harvest alfalfa a day later. Another employ was found to have used a pitch with corroded metal and rough welds to move mung bean sprouts into plastic tubs.

Other states where chia seed products were linked to an outbreak of salmonella infections are Colorado, New York and Washington and Arizona. The CDC recommends that anyone who has purchased any of the recalled items to either throw them out or return the to the retailer where they were purchased.

By Brandi M. Fleeks

Sources:
CDC
NPR
Science World Report
Food Safety News
USA Today

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