Courtesy CFIABranded for Canadian distribution under the LifeForce label, this is one variety of fresh sprouts from Sprouters Northwest Inc., Kent Wash., under recall because tests by the Washington State Department of Agriculture showed positive for listeria.(UPDATED COVERAGE, Jan. 31) Sprouters Northwest Inc., Kent, Wash., voluntarily recalled almost a ton of sprout products in the U.S. and Canada because of potential listeria contamination. No illnesses have been reported.
A “surveillance sampling” collected at retail by the Washington State Department of Agriculture revealed two samples that tested positive for listeria, according to the recall notice on the Food and Drug Administration website.
Company officials did not return calls seeking comment.
Sprouters Northwest is among the founding member companies of the Sprout Alliance for Safety and Science established last year.
Steffanie Smith, a partner at California Sprouts and volunteer board member for the alliance, said Jan. 30 that the group was still waiting on details before making comments on the situation with Sprouters Northwest.
Smith said the alliance is still working on standards and practices documents, a goal the group set for November 2012.
“We continue to be close,” Smith said. “It was a much bigger undertaking than we thought. We are meeting regularly and hope to be finished soon.”
According to the group’s website, members must pass inspections by “alliance-approved inspectors.” A list of those inspectors is in the works, Smith said.
Another group, the FDA-funded Sprout Safety Alliance at the Illinois Institute for Food Safety and Health, is working on educational and training materials.
David Gombas, senior vice president for science and technology for United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., is working with that alliance. He said on Jan. 29 that the Sprouters Northwest recall underscores the need for the guidelines and training that the alliance is developing.
Most of the recalled sprouts had expiration dates of Jan. 26, but alfalfa sprouts included in the recall don’t expire until Jan. 31. The recall notice states 1,953 pounds are involved. The sprouts were distributed from Jan. 10-18 through the retail and foodservice distribution chain.
Sprouters Northwest distributed the sprouts in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, and in British Columbia in Canada. Canada Safeway Ltd. imported the sprouts to Canada, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency recall notice. They are sold under the LifeForce brand. The recalled sprouts in the U.S. are branded as Sprouters Northwest products.