Federal test results that linked a pathogen found in a sample collected at Tiny Greens Organic Farm to the Midwest-centered salmonella outbreak are misleading and inconclusive, owner Bill Bagby said.
Urbana, Ill.-based Tiny Greens had voluntarily recalled alfalfa sprouts Dec. 29 after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention connected a salmonella outbreak to its product eaten at Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches outlets. By Jan. 11, the CDC reported 125 illnesses in 22 states — many in Illinois — involved the same salmonella type.
Then the Food and Drug Administration reported Jan. 14 that a water runoff sample tested positive for the salmonella type involved in the outbreak. But the sample, Bagby said, had no connection with his growing operation, which is indoors.
“They call it water runoff, but it was runoff from the compost pile outside the building,” he said. “It’s misleading to say it’s environmental. There were 260 samples taken inside the building — spent irrigation water, potable water, sprouts, seeds, floor and wall swabs, packing — and they were all negative for salmonella.”
“The FDA Web page even mentions that since this is such a common form of salmonella, most of these (125) cases are probably not related to the Illinois outbreak.”
Tiny Greens stopped shipping Jan. 12, Bagby said, to do a precautionary deep clean of its facility. The grower-shipper discarded products worth about $100,000 — among them 21,000 pounds of bean sprouts. He expects shipments to resume Jan. 20.
“My epidemiologist said it’s not probable that any of my product is contaminated,” Bagby said. “Possible, yes; but probable, no. I told the FDA and CDCP that if they have a remote feeling it’s possible our products are contaminated, I don’t want to make anybody sick. I told them I am willing to shut down and do a thorough cleaning of this building.”