CDC: Two 'Sproutbreaks' Sicken More Than 70

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June 13, 2014

More than 70 people in the United States and Canada have been sickened in two so-called "sproutbreaks" involving foods made from either sprouted chia seeds or clover, federal investigators say. More than 10 of them have been hospitalized.

In the chia outbreak, the illnesses have been traced to two products: a powder made from sprouted, ground chia seeds and a separate product made from sprouted chia and flax seeds, sold by Health Matters America.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reports of 21 people in 12 states falling ill from the chia products. An additional 34 infections have been reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The ground chia powder was also distributed to and sold by Navitas Naturals, in Novato, CA, which expanded an existing recall of goods containing the sprouted chia powder on June 6.

One of its customers was Williams-Sonoma, which sold an Omega 3 Smoothie Mixer that contained the chia powder.

The sprouted chia powder is used as a gluten-free flour and is also sprinkled on breakfast cereal and other foods.

Gluten-free products have become a health craze, with one in three American adults saying they've tried to cut down on grains such as wheat, barley and rye, according to the consumer marketing research group NPD.

Those grains contain a protein called gluten. About one in 133 Americas has an autoimmune disorder called celiac disease, which means they cannot digest gluten, according to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.

Three different strains of salmonella have been linked to the sprouted seed powder.

A second "sproutbreak," linked to sprouted clover, has sickened 17 people with E. coli O121 in five states. Almost half of those sickened have been hospitalized.

The clover sprout outbreak was traced to contaminated raw clover sprouts produced by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts of Moyie Springs, ID.

Among the problems FDA inspectors found at the Idaho sprout plant: two employees using tennis rackets with scratches, chips, frayed plastic and sponge-type handles to scoop mung bean sprouts from a harvester. The same rackets were used the following day during alfalfa sprout harvesting.

The CDC recommends that consumers do not eat any of the recalled products containing chia.

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