Alfalfa Sprouts Harbor E. coli

LOS ANGELES-The California Department of Health Services has found that there were more food poisoning cases in the state from 1996-1998 from alfalfa sprouts than any other food.

Their report was recently published in The Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers found that sprouts contaminated with salmonella or E. coli were to blame for two deaths and more than 22,000 people becoming ill.

The strain of E. coli, 0157, is one of the most deadly forms of food poisoning. The bacteria can causes bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and kidney failure in those with compromised immune systems.

The sprouts can become infected in a variety of ways including tainted seeds and contaminated irrigation water. Runoff from nearby pastures and uncomposted manure were also sources of the infection.

Washing does not remove all of the bacteria, and the risk of infection is particularly high because sprouts are typically eaten raw. Researchers suggested sprouts not be served to children, the elderly, or anyone else with a weakened immune system.

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