To date, the outbreak has sickened fifteen people in Nebraska (8), South Dakota (6), and Oklahoma (1), according to information provided by the CDC. Two people have been hospitalized.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has reported sixteen illnesses among individuals who consumed SunSprouts alfalfa sprouts between December 4–13. Eight of these have been confirmed genetically to be part of this outbreak. Results are pending on seven other cases.
Tracing the source
Epidemiological evidence collected by the CDC and its state partners identified alfalfa sprouts as a likely source of this outbreak.
Two outbreak victims specifically reported having purchased SunSprouts alfalfa sprouts at their local grocery stores. Others reported having consumed alfalfa sprouts at local restaurants.
A traceback investigation carried out by the FDA identified SunSprouts brand alfalfa sprouts grown by CW Sprouts Inc., doing business as (DBA) SunSprout Enterprises of Fremont, NE as the probable source of the outbreak.
The company has recalled four batches of alfalfa sprouts, identified as Lots ##4211, 5211, 3212, and 4212.
The recalled SunSprouts brand alfalfa sprouts were packaged in 4-ounce clamshells and 2.5 lb packages with best sold by dates between 12/10/2022 and 1/7/2023. The sprouts were supplied directly to restaurants and grocery stores in Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa.
According to the FDA’s Inspection Database, CW Sprouts, Inc. has been inspected on at least seven occasions since 2009. Although some of its earlier inspections were classified “Voluntary Action Indicated,” there are no posted citations listed for the past ten years.
The most recent FDA inspection was completed in August 2021.
What you need to know
Consumers, restaurants, and retailers
Do not eat, sell, or serve recalled SunSprouts brand alfalfa sprouts.
Check your refrigerators for recalled SunSprouts brand alfalfa sprouts with best by dates between 12/10/2022 and 1/7/2023, and discard these items.
If you purchased or used recalled alfalfa sprouts, use extra vigilance in cleaning and sanitizing any surfaces that may have come in contact with these products, to reduce the risk of cross contamination.
If you or someone in your household ate SunSprouts alfalfa sprouts and have symptoms of salmonellosis, contact your healthcare provider.
Suppliers and Distributors
Do not use, ship or sell recalled alfalfa sprouts grown by SunSprout Enterprises.
Do not use any comingled and potentially cross-contaminated product if there has been potential cross-contamination or mixing of recalled alfalfa sprouts with products from other sources, and use extra vigilance in cleaning any surfaces and storage areas that may have come into contact with recalled alfalfa sprouts.
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A deadly nine-nation outbreak of Salmonella Mbandaka ST413 infections is most likely due to consumption of ready-to-eat (RTE) chicken products and/or fresh chicken meat, such as those used in sandwiches and wraps.
Nineteen outbreak victims have been hospitalized, five of them with septicemia.
One person–a resident of the UK–has died.
Outbreak cases have been reported by the following countries:
Czechia (Czech Republic): 5 (none confirmed as yet)
Estonia: 3 (all confirmed)
Finland: 89 (42 confirmed and 47 possible)
France: 10 (all confirmed)
Germany: 2 (all confirmed)
Ireland: 1 (all confirmed)
Netherlands: 1 (all confirmed)
Israel: 4 (none confirmed as yet)
United Kingdom: 81 (all confirmed)
The UK was the first country to detect the outbreak, reporting a cluster of 31 cases from England (25), Scotland (3) and Wales (3) on May 20, 2022. Sample collection dates ranged between September 24, 2021 and April 23, 2022. Four of the patients were hospitalized, and one has died.
Finland followed on the UK’s heels with a report of nine cases on June 16, 2022.
The Finnish food safety authority has linked suspect products to an Estonian company, but this link could not be verified by traceback identification or microbiological analysis.
The European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) is encouraging its member countries to sequence the genomes of Salmonella Mbandaka isolated from human sources and to interview those patients whose isolates match the outbreak strain.
In the weeks and months following the May 20, 2022, recall of Jif peanut butter products, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received more than 200 reports from consumers complaining of illness after consuming the recalled products.
This information was supplied to eFoodAlert by the FDA in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
It is usual for an outbreak of foodborne illness to be significantly larger than indicated by CDC statistics. Indeed, the CDC reminded the public of this in its investigation report, saying, “The true number of sick people in this outbreak was likely much higher than the number reported. This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for Salmonella.”
By the numbers
The CDC tally
The CDC received lab-confirmed reports of outbreak cases in 21 individuals from 17 different states. Four people were hospitalized.
The first victim (“Patient Zero”) became ill on February 19, 2022.
The 21st victim became ill on May 23, 2022.
The youngest victim was less than one year old.
The oldest victim was 85 years old.
The median age of the victims was 59 years.
75% of the victims were female.
100% of the victims interviewed reported having consumed Jif peanut butter in the days before becoming ill.
The FDA tally
From January 1, 2022, through October 11, 2022, the FDA fielded a total of 320 queries and complaints relating to Jif peanut butter. Of these, 319 were specifically related to products manufactured at the Lexington, Kentucky, manufacturing plant linked to the outbreak.
235 of the complainants reported having suffered an illness after consuming Jif peanut butter
204 of the complainants reported specific symptoms; the remaining 31 reports mentioned “illness” or “adverse events”
Most of the individuals who reported symptoms suffered from multiple ill effects, including:
2 suffered sepsis (a potentially serious, more generalized infection)
1 individual reported a perforated bowel and peritonitis
1 reported kidney failure
On May 20, 2022, The J.M. Smucker Co. announced a voluntary recall of peanut butter manufactured at its Lexington, Kentucky, production facility during a period of several months, up to and including the recall date.
The recall notice listed a variety of products and packaging formats from individual serving size packets weighing less than one ounce to 96-ounce twin packs, including:
As of October 21, 2022, the recall has not been completed.
CDC versus FDA reporting
The differences between the data reported by the FDA and the CDC are a function of how the two agency systems operate.
The CDC relies on reports of lab-confirmed cases of foodborne illness, and reports only on those cases, whereas the FDA receives and tabulates complaints from consumers, regardless of whether or not there was lab confirmation of an infection.
Both systems provide useful and complementary information that enables epidemiologists to determine the scope of an outbreak and–with a bit of luck thrown in to season the pot–trace it to its source.
In fact, it is likely that the number of people affected by the contaminated peanut butter was far larger even than the 200+ individuals reported by the FDA. There is no way of knowing how many people suffered mild symptoms and either didn’t realize they were linked to a Jif product or didn’t bother making a report.
The consequences for the company
In 2006, Peter Pan peanut butter manufactured by ConAgra was responsible for an outbreak of 425 Salmonella infections. An FDA inspection revealed that the company had been aware of a Salmonella contamination problem in their production plant, but did not reveal this information to the FDA investigation team. The government laid charges against ConAgra and entered into a plea agreement with the company in 2015. ConAgra pled guilty to a criminal misdemeanor, was fined $8 million, and had to forfeit an additional $3.2 million in assets.
In 2009, Peanut Corporation of America was responsible for a deadly outbreak of Salmonella infections that sickened 714 people and killed nine of them. Company management had knowingly shipped contaminated peanut butter to its customers. Once again, the government brought criminal charges. This time, the owners received prison sentences.
In 2012, Sunland Inc., the largest producer of organic peanut butter in the USA, was the source of a Salmonella outbreak that sickened 42 people. Again, the coupany was found to have knowingly shipped contaminated product. The FDA suspended Sunland’s food facility registration, effectively shutting down the company’s operations, but no charges were laid.
Earlier today, the FDA declined eFoodAlert’s request for a copy of the Jif Establishment Inspection Report on the basis that, “…disclosure could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.”
The FDA has a range of possible enforcement proceedings at its disposal, ranging from a simple Warning Letter all the way up to referring the case to the Department of Justice for the laying of criminal charges.