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Alfalfa sprouts linked to E. coli cases in Wisconsin, Minnesota

E. coli cases in Wisconsin and Minnesota have been linked to alfalfa sprouts produced by Jack & The Green Sprouts of River Falls, Wis. Health and agriculture officials are investigating the outbreak. Minnesota officials urge consumers not to eat alfalfa sprouts produced by Jack & The Green Sprouts and retailers and restaurants not to sell or serve them.

Seven E. coli cases were identified in January and early February in Minnesota, according to a release by the Minnesota Department of Health. Those taken ill range in age from 18 to 84, and five are female. Four of the cases are residents of the Twin Cities metro area and three live in greater Minnesota. Two were hospitalized, and all have recovered.

Two additional cases of E. coli infection, considered part of this outbreak, were identified by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WDHS) in Wisconsin residents. Neither case was hospitalized.

Jack & The Green Sprouts distributes alfalfa sprouts to states in the upper Midwest and possibly other states. The seven Minnesota cases and at least one of the Wisconsin cases were exposed to implicated alfalfa sprouts from a variety of locations, including grocery/cooperative stores, restaurants, salad bars and commercial food service.

This is an ongoing investigation, and the extent of the product contamination is unknown. Based on the information collected to date, health officials recommend not eating any alfalfa sprouts produced by Jack & The Green Sprouts. Currently, there is no evidence that other products produced by Jack & The Green Sprouts are contaminated.

The sprouts may be packaged in a plastic clamshell with a brightly colored round label on top that notes the sprout variety. The alfalfa sprouts may also be mixed in the same package with other sprout varieties.

Symptoms of illness caused by this strain of E. coli can include stomach cramps and diarrhea, often with bloody stools, but only a low-grade or no fever. People typically become ill two to five days after exposure, but this period can range from one to eight days. Most people recover in five to 10 days. However, E. coli infections sometimes lead to a serious complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can cause kidney failure and other severe problems, including death. Those most at risk of developing complications from E. coli include children younger than 10, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

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