alfalfa-sprout.jpgToday the FDA is warned consumers not to eat alfalfa sprouts or spicy sprouts from plastic bags labeled “Evergreen Produce” or “Evergreen Produce Inc.,” because the sprouts are possibly linked to 20 reported cases, including one hospitalization, of Salmonella Enteritidis in Idaho, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota and Washington State.  However, AP’s Mary Clare Jalonick reports that despite the illnesses, Evergreen Produce has not recalled the sprouts. According to Ms. Jalonick:

Nadine Scharf, who identified herself as the co-owner of the company, said Monday that the company has stopped producing the alfalfa and spicy sprouts but is not planning to recall them from store shelves.

Scharf said the FDA has asked her to recall the sprouts but that she doesn’t believe the agency has enough evidence to link the illnesses to her products. Most of the sprouts have probably been consumed anyway, she said.

The FDA “inspected every nook and cranny, every part of our plant, and that was a week ago and they haven’t come up with anything yet,” Scharf said. “We’ll see. Maybe they will. Who knows.” 

“Recalling the sprouts that are out there would be like saying I am guilty of having bacterially contaminated sprouts, and as of today they haven’t documented the fact that any of our sprouts have bacteria in them,” she said.

I have to admit, in two decades of handling foodborne illness cases, I can count on one hand how many times a company has refused to recall a product when linked  to illnesses.  It will be interesting to see if the FDA steps up and forces a recall.  Here is how FDA’s Mandatory recall authority (FSMA § 206) works – at least in theory:

The FDA Commissioner gains authority to order a mandatory recall when the agency determines that there is a reasonable probability that a food other than infant formula is adulterated under FDC Act § 402 or misbranded under § 403(w), and that the use of or exposure to the food will cause serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals. FDA must first give the responsible party an opportunity to conduct a voluntary recall. If the responsible party refuses to do so, and the Commissioner issues an order, FDA must give the responsible party an opportunity for an informal hearing within two days of the order’s issuance.

So, let’s see what happens on Wednesday.