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May 18, 2009

Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047 or

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Alfalfa Seed Provider Source of Contamination

Lincoln—The FDA issued a recommendation last month that consumers not eat raw sprouts until further notice, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

The recommendation followed on the heels of an investigation in 13 states, including Nebraska, that implicated the source of salmonella illnesses as alfalfa sprouts produced at multiple facilities using seeds that originated from a common seed provider in another state.

The company providing seed, which is considered the ultimate source of the contamination, recalled certain lots of alfalfa seed that were believed to be contaminated.

In March CW Sprouts in Omaha voluntarily recalled its product after a preliminary investigation connected the cases of salmonella that were occurring in Nebraska to alfalfa sprouts produced at its facility.

“CW Sprouts acted out of an abundance of caution and with concern for its consumers when it voluntarily agreed to recall its sprouts,” said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Division of Public Health. “I want to thank them for doing the right and responsible thing.”

CW Sprouts is currently following industry guidance on best practices for sprout production, Dr. Schaefer said. The purpose of this guidance is to avoid outbreaks of salmonella and E. colias a result of eating sprouts.

Since 1999, the CDC and FDA have recommended that persons at high risk for complications of infection, such as the elderly, young children and those with compromised immune systems not eat raw sprouts.

While investigations into the current outbreak continue, and until more specific recommendations or control measures can be implemented, the FDA currently recommends not eating any sprouts. The FDA recommends that any sprouts that are eaten should be cooked thoroughly.