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Analysis finds no salmonella at local farm

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture issued a consumer advisory last Thursday after routine safety testing revealed salmonella bacteria in a package of alfalfa sprouts grown by River Falls-based Jack and the Green Sprouts, N8477 770th St.

The MDA advised people to throw away any of the product they may have had.

The MDA and the Minnesota Department of Health classified the bacteria found on the sprouts as salmonella diarizonae. The advisory said Minnesota did not know of any illnesses associated with consumption of this product.

It also said the contamination wasn't associated with the ongoing national investigation of illnesses linked to peanut butter products.

The MDA worked with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to investigate the contamination and to remove the product from distribution and retail facilities in Minnesota and Wisconsin, including River Falls.

The news release advises that consuming food contaminated with salmonella can cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea and fever. Anyone who believes they may be ill as a result of eating a contaminated product, should contact a health care provider.

Jack and the Green Sprouts' owner Joe Mahoney said on Friday the MDA pulled the alfalfa sprouts it tested from a holding warehouse in the Twin Cities. The MDA called him and instructed him to call all his clients and ask them to hold the product.

He said once the agency contacted him, he used his color-coding system to track the shipment and see what seed it had come from. Mahoney found it had been shipped on Jan. 15 and 16, commenting that the shelf life for alfalfa sprouts is two weeks.

The farmer said alfalfa sprouts would have "no business" on any shelf after two weeks. He feels confident the product was contaminated during or after shipping; that the bacteria did not originate on his farm.

"Our facility is clean and we haven't had any problem in 30 years," he said.

The Jack and the Green Sprouts' owner said as soon as he was notified of the positive test, he ordered two more independent tests run on just about everything at the farm: Seeds, the entire indoor growing area, wash tanks, bubbler, floor drains, corners, countertops, inside machines and outside machines.

Mahoney said both sets of all the tests came back negative. He said the farm tests every batch of product before it's released, and none of those have shown a positive result in all his years in business.

Jack and the Green Sprouts also grows radish sprouts, broccoli sprouts, wheat grass, bean mix and sunflowers.

According to a profile posted on Minneapolis' Wedge Community Co-op, Joe Mahoney is "a real pioneer in the local produce movement." The profile says he uses well water, certified organic seed, and "super-clean growing conditions."