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Originally published Monday, June 27, 2011 at 6:13 PM

Evergreen Produce alfalfa sprouts possibly linked to salmonella

Do not eat alfalfa sprouts or spicy sprouts under the Evergreen Produce brand. If you have them, throw them away — immediately. That word came down Monday from state health officials after the sprouts were possibly linked to 20 reported cases of salmonella, nine in Washington.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Do not eat alfalfa sprouts or spicy sprouts under the Evergreen Produce brand. If you have them, throw them away — immediately.

That word came down Monday from state health officials after the sprouts were possibly linked to 20 reported cases of salmonella, nine in Washington among residents of Benton, Spokane, Whitman and Walla Walla counties. Cases have also been reported in Montana, Idaho and North Dakota.

"Anyone who has them should not eat them," said Donn Moyer, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Health. "You can cook bacteria out of food, but the best advice is not to eat them."

Evergreen Produce has not issued a recall.

Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, chills, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. However, two Washington residents were hospitalized as a result of the outbreak.

This is the third time sprouts have been associated with a food-poisoning outbreak in the past two months. Bean sprouts were implicated in an E. coli outbreak in Germany that killed 48 people and sickened close to 4,000 others, according to a news release from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Officials are quick to point out that the two outbreaks are unrelated. On Monday, France reported E. coli-related infections there sickened eight people.

Sprouts — alfalfa, radish and bean — are more likely to be contaminated compared with other vegetables because of the warm, humid conditions required for them to flourish. Since the mid-1990s, more than 30 reported outbreaks have been linked to foodborne illnesses associated with raw or lightly cooked sprouts, most of them caused by salmonella and E. coli, health officials say.

Infants, pregnant women, the elderly and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to become severely ill from salmonella infection. Health officials advise they avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind.

They advise others to cook sprouts thoroughly and request that raw sprouts not be added to their food. People who think they may have become sick from eating contaminated sprouts should seek medical attention.

About 600 to 800 cases are reported every year in Washington.

Roberto Daza: 206-464-3195 or rdaza@seattletimes.com

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