Salmonella outbreak linked to Louisville seed company


by Adam Walser

Posted on February 5, 2010 at 1:07 AM

Updated Friday, Feb 5 at 11:19 AM

(WHAS11) - The source was traced to alfalfa sprouts distributed by C.W. Sprouts under the "Sun Sprouts" label.

Medical labs in Nebraska helped identify the bacteria as Salmonella "st. Paul" by its unique DNA fingerprint.

Hospitals in Nebraska and three other states reported the cases to state health departments who forwarded the information to the Centers for Disease Control.

186 people reported symptoms.

Attorney Drew Falkenstein has filed three lawsuits on behalf of victims.

“The studies have shown that in just about every outbreak situation you can multiply the number of confirmed illnesses by 10, maybe even 20 or 30 to get an idea of how many people actually felt ill,” said Falkenstein.

The plaintiffs all had one thing in common... they all reported getting Turkey Tom sandwiches from Jimmy Johns in Omaha. One even reported ordering extra alfalfa sprouts. They all were infected with salmonella.

Sprouts sold at grocery stores and at other restaurants were also identified as sources of the outbreak.
But weeks after all the sprouts from C.W. Sprouts were pulled from the market, dozens of people in other states got sick from sprouts grown by other distributors.

Eventually, 235 people in 14 states were diagnosed with salmonella.

The C.D.C. determined that the common denominator in every case was that the seeds used to grow the sprouts all came from Caudill Seed Company in Louisville.

Eventually, Caudill seed issued a market withdrawal request for all of the remaining seeds from lot 32, the seeds implicated in the outbreak.

But the salmonella outbreak last year was not the first one traced back to Caudill seed.

In 2004, the F.D.A. documented another market withdrawal of alfalfa seeds by Caudill Seed company after an outbreak involving a dozen salmonella cases in multiple states.

The attorney for the plaintiffs in the recent lawsuits says Caudill's negligence contributed to outbreaks.
“You’re talking about a situation when you've got many thousands of people who are potentially affected, potentially made sick as a result of Caudill Seed products,” said Falkenstein.

In the suit, the attorneys allege that Caudill failed to adequately monitor the sanitary conditions of its premises, apply its own policies to ensure safety, take reasonable measures to prevent the transmission of salmonella bacteria and related filth and adequately train and supervise its employees in preventing salmonella.

Caudill Seed Company would not provide an interview for our story since there is pending litigation, but a statement issued by the company says Caudill Seed has invested more than $1,000,000 in food safety technologies during the past 15 years.

That includes regular testing of seeds and placing warning labels on the products going out to growers.
Caudill has never been issued a warning letter by the F.D.A..

While some of victims of the salmonella outbreak out West reported eating sprouts at Jimmy Johns., no Louisville area restaurants reported any problems.

To be on the safe side, they changed suppliers after the outbreak.

As for Caudill seed, they tell us alfalfa sprouts are a raw agricultural product and there's no one hundred percent method  to prevent contamination


WHAS 11 News Received this E-mail from Caudill Sprouting, LLC.:


Mr. Walser,

We regret that we are not able to make any direct response to you because of the ongoing litigation, but we wanted to at least provide you with a statement.

Caudill Sprouting LLC regrets that we are unable to respond to the specifics of this story because litigation is currently pending.  Generally, we can say that Caudill Sprouting LLC is strongly committed to food safety.  Caudill Sprouting LLC tests all of its seeds for pathogens before selling them to alfalfa sprouters and it complies with, or exceeds, all USDA and FDA requirements.  Caudill Sprouting LLC urges the sprouters to whom it sells seeds to comply with all FDA food safety guidances.  Unfortunately, in rare instances, sprouters may fail to understand or properly implement the interventions and testing required by the FDA guidances.  Over the past 15 years, Caudill Sprouting LLC has invested over $1,000,000 in food safety technologies, interventions and on-going research. Caudill Sprouting LLC has been an active participant in industry efforts to enhance the food safety procedures followed by sprouters to help ensure that consumers receive a safe product.  Caudill Sprouting LLC is confident that the pending litigation will show that it did nothing wrong and that the allegations against it are unsupported.

Stephen Benjamin
Director Of Quality Assurance
Caudill Sprouting LLC