How Does Salmonella Contaminate Vegetables?
The word Salmonella may bring to mind images of eggs or raw chicken, but the latest outbreak of the bacteria was caused by greens – resulting in the recall of certain veggies in 15 states.
The bacteria Salmonella enteritidis (also referred to as S. enteritidis) can get inside of hens and eggs due to unsanitary coop conditions, but can also thrive on the surface of fruits and vegetables. This occurs when the water used to irrigate food crops is drawn from wells that are near livestock, which can cause fecal bacteria to spread through the water to the food, Doug Powell, associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University, told Life's Little Mysteries .
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When manure is used to fertilize soil, bacteria can easily colonize the plants. Farm workers need to be careful when they handle crops, because bacteria on their hands can transfer to the crops. And although it happens rarely, bacteria in soil can also be taken up by the roots of plants and remain inside the plant's veins, where they would be impossible to remove by washing, according to Powell.
The source of the current Salmonella outbreak was announced on Monday, Dec. 27, by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The outbreak, which has sickened at least 89 people in 15 states and the District of Columbia, was traced to alfalfa sprouts produced by Tiny Greens Organic Farm and sold in products at Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches outlets, according to health officials.
The salmonella-tainted alfalfa sprouts and spicy sprouts (which have alfalfa sprouts plus radish and clover sprouts) were distributed in 4-ounce and 5-pound containers to farmers' markets, grocery stores and restaurants in Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and possibly other Midwestern states. Roughly half the illnesses occurred in Illinois, according to the FDA.
The FDA has advised consumers to avoid eating the sprouts and instructed restaurants to throw them away. No deaths have been linked to the outbreak.
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