Although the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to consumers June 27 to not eat alfalfa sprouts from Evergreen Produce because of possible salmonella contamination, the owner of the company declined to recall her product until the agency could provide “hard evidence.”
The Idaho Department of Health & Welfare is investigating a number of cases believed to be connected to the consumption of alfalfa sprouts, according to the FDA.
Nadine Scharf owns 23-year-old Evergreen Produce Inc., Moyie, Idaho. She said June 27 that someone reported to health officials that they had gotten sick after eating Evergreen sprouts in recent weeks, but that there haven’t been any new illnesses reported since June 2.
“The FDA encouraged us to do a recall but I said I needed to see hard evidence that our sprouts were involved,” Scharf said. “They are down to only three cases now. It started out that they thought 20 people were sick, then they dropped that number to six and now it’s down to three. And they say it will be a week before any tests results will be available.”
In a June 27 news release, FDA officials pointed out that the possible salmonella contamination is not the same strain as was responsible for dozens of deaths and thousands of illnesses in Europe.
Charles Breen, the FDA district director in Bothell, Wash., confirmed June 27 that the agency had taken swab samples at Evergreen Produce, but he declined to provide any other details.
“This is an open investigation,” Breen said, adding that he did not know how long the investigation would take. “It depends on where the evidence leads us.”
Emily Simnitt, public information officer for the Idaho Health and Welfare Department, said three confirmed cases of salmonella had been logged in Idaho in recent weeks, but that no new cases had been reported as of June 27. She said one of the three sick people reported eating Evergreen Produce brand sprouts, but she declined further comment.
Details from the FDA’s main office were not too specific, either.
“I unfortunately can’t share details about FDA’s investigation other than what’s been made public in the press release,” said FDA public affairs spokeswoman Stephanie Yao.
Although the agency has the power under the new Food Safety Modernization Act to mandate a recall, it had not done so as of June 28.