Blog Archives

Sprouts Farmers Market staying ahead of food-waste regulations

Sprouts Farmers Market is expanding the food waste diversion services it receives from Quest Resource Holding Corp. Quest designed and deployed a comprehensive organics recycling program at all California stores, ahead of new mandatory commercial organics recycling regulations.

The program reduces food waste by diverting produce, dairy, bakery, bulk, deli and juice bar items that cannot be sold or donated. The retailer now recycles food waste that cannot be donated at 125 stores.

“Responsible retailing is part of Sprouts’ DNA, and we are proud of what we’ve achieved in the past two years working with Quest,” Carlos Rojas, senior counsel for Sprouts Farmers Market, said in a press release. “Our organics recycling program not only benefits the environment, but improves store operations by minimizing waste. We also are pleased to be well ahead of the CalRecycle regulations compliance date.”

California Assembly Bill 1826 (AB-1826 Solid waste: organic waste) requires businesses that generate organic waste to implement organic waste recycling programs in phases depending on the amount of waste generated per week. Quest is helping the retailer stay ahead of the regulation requiring the retailer to recycle food waste by Jan. 1, 2017.

“Quest is delighted to expand its relationship with Sprouts, one of the fastest growing retailers in the country, and continue to help them reach their sustainability goals in California and across the country,” Ray Hatch, Quest’s chief executive officer, said in the release.

Quest’s organics recycling program converts food waste into nutritional animal feed additives or compost, helping to prevent greenhouse gas emissions and reduce waste in landfills. Quest developed custom online and in-store training to help educate and engage store associates to ensure program is successful.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Soybean and Mungbean Sprouts Recalled in WA and OR for Listeria Risk

Kkot Saem Sprouts, Inc. of Spanaway, Washington is voluntarily recalling Soybean Sprouts and Mungbean Sprouts sold under brand names Kkot Saem, Winter Blossom Bean Sprouts, and Winter Blossom because the sprouts may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The products were distributed at H-Mart in Washington and Oregon, and G-Mart in Oregon.

The last date of distribution was December 16, 2014. The mungbean sprouts have a five-day shelf life from the packing date and soybean sprouts have a shelf life of up to two weeks from the packing date.

The recalled products are as follows:

The contamination was detected during routine testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

No illnesses have been reported in connection to the products. However, due to the time required to trace an illness back to a specific food product, it is impossible to say if any illnesses have occurred.

Customers who have purchased the recalled products are urged to return them to the place of purchase or discard them.

Product labels:

Front Label, Kkot Saem, Mung Bean Sprouts, 0.8 lb.

Front Label, Winter Blossom Bean Sprouts, Soy Bean Sprouts, 1.5 lbs.

Food Safety News

Second annual ShopRite Sprouts Awards

The ShopRite Sprouts program, an eight-week incentive program designed to encourage children to try new fruits and vegetables, held a special awards ceremony earlier this month.

In this year’s program, participating children tried more than 104 varieties of fruits and veggies combined, including varieties of fresh, frozen, canned and dried product, as well as 100 percent juice. Those that topped the list were bananas, apples, carrots and tomatoes.shoprShopRite of Little Falls, NJ, announced the top three winners of its second annual ShopRite Sprouts Awards at a special ceremony at the Totowa Library.

Heather Shasa, full-time store dietitian at Little Falls ShopRite initiated the program as a potential avenue for parents and guardians to have the resources, educational materials and recipes necessary to embark on their own fruit and vegetable journeys for their children and families.

“According to a 2009 study by researchers at Ohio State University, just 16 percent of children ages 6 to 11 meet the government’s guidelines [for fruits and vegetables],” Shasa said in a press release. “Fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber, all of which are important for proper growth and development. It is essential that healthy eating habits are established at a young age as these eating behaviors tend to continue into adulthood. Little Sprouts is a fun way to get these kids engaged and thinking about healthy eating.”

Each time a child tried a fruit or vegetable, they filled out an activity sheet and received a stamp on a stamp card. Once they received five stamps, they received a prize, and a new stamp card was issued. The activity sheets then decorated the windows of Little Falls ShopRite.

Cooking classes were added at the Totowa (NJ) Library where children could create and sample recipes featuring produce in a fun and inviting atmosphere amongst their peers. Topics included Fun with the Veggetti, Pizza Pizazz with Cauliflower Pizza Crusts and Healthy Halloween. In addition, in-store events featuring fruits and vegetables allowed participants to receive extra stamps on their stamp cards.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Second annual ShopRite Sprouts Awards

The ShopRite Sprouts program, an eight-week incentive program designed to encourage children to try new fruits and vegetables, held a special awards ceremony earlier this month.

In this year’s program, participating children tried more than 104 varieties of fruits and veggies combined, including varieties of fresh, frozen, canned and dried product, as well as 100 percent juice. Those that topped the list were bananas, apples, carrots and tomatoes.shoprShopRite of Little Falls, NJ, announced the top three winners of its second annual ShopRite Sprouts Awards at a special ceremony at the Totowa Library.

Heather Shasa, full-time store dietitian at Little Falls ShopRite initiated the program as a potential avenue for parents and guardians to have the resources, educational materials and recipes necessary to embark on their own fruit and vegetable journeys for their children and families.

“According to a 2009 study by researchers at Ohio State University, just 16 percent of children ages 6 to 11 meet the government’s guidelines [for fruits and vegetables],” Shasa said in a press release. “Fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber, all of which are important for proper growth and development. It is essential that healthy eating habits are established at a young age as these eating behaviors tend to continue into adulthood. Little Sprouts is a fun way to get these kids engaged and thinking about healthy eating.”

Each time a child tried a fruit or vegetable, they filled out an activity sheet and received a stamp on a stamp card. Once they received five stamps, they received a prize, and a new stamp card was issued. The activity sheets then decorated the windows of Little Falls ShopRite.

Cooking classes were added at the Totowa (NJ) Library where children could create and sample recipes featuring produce in a fun and inviting atmosphere amongst their peers. Topics included Fun with the Veggetti, Pizza Pizazz with Cauliflower Pizza Crusts and Healthy Halloween. In addition, in-store events featuring fruits and vegetables allowed participants to receive extra stamps on their stamp cards.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Part 1: Are Raw Sprouts Safe?

(This article, focused on consumers, is by Julia Darnton and Phillip Tocco of Michigan State University Extension. It was originally posted here on Dec. 16, 2014, and is reposted with permission. Part 2, focused on growers, will appear tomorrow.)

In 2011, an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis was linked to alfalfa sprouts and spicy sprouts in the United States. This was right after an outbreak of European E. coli O104 in Germany, which sickened thousands and was linked to 50 deaths.

Recalls of sprouts as a result of Listeria created yet more concern in the U.S. Each of these outbreaks was linked to a different harmful bacteria feared in foodborne illnesses. Since that time, many restaurants have taken sprouts off the menu, including the sandwich chain Jimmy John’s. Sprouts still appear at some farmers markets and are desired for adding flavor to salads, juices or entrées, both by professional chefs and home cooks.

What causes sprouts to be dangerous? How can sprouts be safely consumed?

Bacteria that cause foodborne illness can lurk anywhere there is a host for them to thrive. In sprouts, the seed can, and does, carry the foodborne illness pathogen. This is why we have to take advisories such as “Refrigerate after opening” very seriously and do our best to minimize the sources of foodborne illness in our own homes. Michigan State University Extension has a team of educators dedicated to helping consumers understand the risk and hazards of foodborne illness.

The common hosts for foodborne illness are categorized as “potentially hazardous foods” or PHFs. Raw sprouts are listed among other foods that are categorized as PHFs such as meats, dairy products, cut melons, cut tomatoes and cut leafy greens. PHFs must be kept colder than 41 degrees F or must be kept above 135 F (please note this is holding time, not cooking temperature, which varies based on the food type).

The University of California at Davis advises that, “The best conditions for sprouting are also ideal for multiplication of pathogenic bacteria if they happen to be present on the seed.” So seeds are sprouting in the ideal conditions for bacteria to grow and sprouts are a documented host for many different bacteria that cause foodborne illness. This is why raw sprouts are potentially hazardous foods.

The designation of PHF does not mean that people shouldn’t eat these foods or shouldn’t purchase these foods. Much like ordering a steak or an egg in any other way but fully cooked, eating raw sprouts means you run the risk of contracting a foodborne illness when you eat it. In healthy individuals, these foodborne illnesses are nothing more than a day or two of nausea or diarrhea. For those who would be considered highly susceptible or vulnerable to foodborne illness, including young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems, it could mean long-term health issues such as severe rheumatoid arthritis, miscarriage, kidney failure or death.

Instead, the designation of PHF means that these foods need to be carefully prepared and stored at the proper temperature, and, if not handled correctly, discarded without being consumed. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) enforces the Michigan Food Code, which lists raw sprouts as a potentially hazardous food and requires time and temperature control for food safety. This means the storage and holding of this product must be closely monitored. The time/temperature control for safety for raw sprouts is 41 F (5 degrees Celsius).

Food Safety News

CDC Update: 111 Sickened in Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Bean Sprouts

At least 111 people in 12 states have been confirmed infected with Salmonella in an outbreak linked to bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods, Inc., according to an outbreak update posted Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Twenty-six percent of patients have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Since the CDC’s last update on Dec. 4, 24 new illnesses have been found.

Wonton Foods continues to cooperate with state and federal public health officials. On Nov. 21, they agreed to destroy any remaining bean sprout products while conducting a thorough cleaning and sanitization of their facilities..

On Nov. 24, the company completed the sanitization process and resumed production. Shipments resumed on Nov. 29.

CDC says it is not likely that any more contaminated product is on store shelves.

CDC recommends that children, the elderly, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind due to their potential to harbor harmful bacteria. Cooking sprouts kills any such bacteria.

Food Safety News

FDA Shuts Down Sprouts Processor for ‘Unsanitary Conditions’

William H. Oshiro, owner of RZM Food Factory, has agreed to stop processing and distributing food until he demonstrates to the FDA that RZM Food Factory’s facility and practices comply with federal food safety requirements.

The agreement, known as a consent decree of permanent injunction, was signed by a federal judge and entered in the U.S. District Court of Hawaii on Dec. 11, 2014.

RZM Food Factory prepared, packed, and held ready-to-eat mung bean, alfalfa, radish and clover sprouts and distributed them in Hawaii. After FDA investigators documented unsanitary conditions at the firm during previous inspections, Mr. Oshiro had agreed to make changes in his production operation, but the FDA has repeatedly found and documented unsanitary conditions.

Sprouts are commonly consumed in their raw state without further processing to eliminate pathogens. Therefore, the manner in which they are produced, packed, and held is critical to ensuring that the potential for microbial contamination is minimized.

Mr. Oshiro has said that RZM Food Factory is no longer processing or distributing food. If Mr. Oshiro decides to resume operations, under the consent decree, he must first demonstrate that RZM Food Factory’s sanitary practices, building, and equipment are suitable to prevent contamination of the food that it prepares and distributes. In addition, to resume operations, Mr. Oshiro must, among other things, retain an independent sanitation expert and develop a program to eliminate unsanitary conditions at the facility.

“The FDA repeatedly advised RZM Food Factory of unsanitary conditions at the facility,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “If and when the company is permitted to resume operations, the FDA plans to continue monitoring its operations and may require the company to recall products or cease production if the agency discovers future violations of food safety practices.”

Food Safety News

Publisher’s Platform: One, Two Three Sprouts You’re Out

Three sprout outbreaks caused by Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria outbreaks since August?  One has been deadly and all have sent dozens to the hospital.

As of yesterday, the CDC has reported a total of 63 persons infected with Salmonella Enteritidis from 10 states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The one ill person from Montana traveled to the Eastern United States during the period when likely exposure occurred. Twenty-six percent of ill persons have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Collaborative investigation efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicate that bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods, Inc. are the likely source of this outbreak.

As of November 13, 2014, Whole genome sequences of the Listeria strains isolated from mung bean sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. and environmental isolates collected at the production facility were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from five people who became ill from June through August 2014. These five ill people were reported from two states: Illinois (4) and Michigan (1).  All ill people were hospitalized. Two deaths were reported.

On August 28, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. conducted a voluntary recall of mung bean sprouts due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination after FDA isolated the pathogen from samples as a result of a routine assignment.

As of August 1, 2014, a total of 19 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 (STEC O121) were reported from six states. The number of ill persons identified in each state was as follows: California (1), Idaho (3), Michigan (1), Montana (2), Utah (1), and Washington (11). 44% of ill persons were hospitalized. No ill persons developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and no deaths were reported.

Epidemiology and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials indicated that contaminated raw clover sprouts produced by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, LLC of Idaho was the likely source of this outbreak.

Barf Blog (yes, there is such a blog) documents at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988.  Looks like that chart needs some updating.

As far back as September 1998, FDA issued a warning against sprouts:

Children, pregnant women and the elderly should not eat alfalfa sprouts until growers find a way to reduce the risk of a potentially deadly bacteria that infects some sprouts, the Food and Drug Administration said this week. The FDA, which is investigating sprout industry practices, said children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems should avoid eating sprouts. The agency’s statement, issued Monday, repeated similar but little-noticed advice the U.S. Centers for Disease Control gave to doctors and researchers a year ago.

Here is the CDC warning :

Sprouts Not Healthy Food for Everyone

Children, the elderly, and persons whose immune systems are not functioning well should not eat raw sprouts, because current treatments of seeds and sprouts cannot get rid of all bacteria present.

Persons who are at high risk for complications from foodborne illness should probably not eat raw sprouts, according to an article in the current issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, CDC’s peer-reviewed journal, which tracks new and reemerging infectious diseases worldwide.

Although sprouts are often considered a “health food,” the warm, humid conditions needed for growing sprouts from seeds are also ideal for bacteria to flourish. Salmonella, E. coli, and other bacteria can grow to high levels without affecting the appearance of the sprouts.

Researchers have treated both seeds and sprouts with heat or washed them in solutions of chlorine, alcohol, and other chemicals. Some of these disinfectants reduced the levels of bacteria, but a potential hazard remained, especially for persons with weak immune systems. High temperatures that would kill the bacteria on the seeds would also keep them from sprouting. Until an effective way is found to prevent illness from sprouts, they should be eaten with caution, if at all.

So, other than continuing to count outbreaks, what is the solution to the sprout problem?

Food Safety News

Ongoing Multistate Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Sprouts

At least 63 people  in 10 states have been sickened in a multistate Salmonella outbreak linked to bean sprouts, reported the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Friday.

Bean sprouts distributed by Wonton Foods, Inc. of Brooklyn, NY have been linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Enteriitdis that has sickened people in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. An estimated 26 percent of victims have been hospitalized, according to CDC’s outbreak report.

The company said in a verbal statement that it was recalling the bean sprouts thought to be tied to the outbreak, according to the CDC outbreak report. The one illness in a person from Montana was likely contracted during a visit to the East Coast.

The first illnesses began September 30, 2014 and the latest reported illness onset to date was November 8, 2014, said CDC. Among 42 persons with available information, 11 (26%) have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.

Of the 37 people interviewed by health officials, 29, or 78 percent, reported eating bean sprouts in the week before they fell ill.

Among those interviewed, “Wonton Foods, Inc. was the only supplier common to all of the restaurants and was the sole supplier of bean sprouts to at least two of the restaurants,” reported CDC.

The firm said its last bean sprout shipment was Nov. 18. On Nov. 21 after being notified of the outbreak, the firm stopped production and sale of its bean sprouts and is taking steps to prevent further Salmonella contamination.

 

Food Safety News

Recalled Bean Sprouts Linked to 2 Listeria Deaths, 3 Hospitalizations

Two people have died and three others have been hospitalized after eating Listeria-contaminated bean sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products of Chicago, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The victims became ill between June and August 2014, but this is the first announcement of the outbreak. It was detected retroactively using whole-genome sequencing, a new technology for detecting outbreaks which utilizes DNA sequencing of bacteria.

Whole Soy Products recalled its mung bean sprout products on August 28 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found contamination of Listeria monocytogenes.

During FDA inspections of the company’s facilities in August, investigators cited the company for 12 instances of unsanitary conditions, and they isolated 25 samples of Listeria contamination during environmental testing.

The company shut down the facility from August 28 to September 15, and the FDA did not find any contamination on products after that date.

Another inspection in October, however, found another nine environmental samples with Listeria contamination and another 12 instances of unsanitary conditions, nine of which were the same problems from the August inspections.

The FDA is working with the company to ensure they don’t produce sprouts until they have adequate assurance that the products are no longer contaminated with Listeria. The Illinois Department of Public Health is also working to embargo all products from the company.

Whole-genome sequencing of infections in all five patients were found to be connected to the Listeria isolated from the production plant. The illnesses included four people from Illinois and one from Michigan.

The CDC, FDA and state health departments are continuing to work on this investigation and will release new information as it becomes available.

Food Safety News

Recalled Bean Sprouts Linked to 2 Listeria Deaths, 3 Hospitalizations

Two people have died and three others have been hospitalized after eating Listeria-contaminated bean sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products of Chicago, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The victims became ill between June and August 2014, but this is the first announcement of the outbreak. It was detected retroactively using whole-genome sequencing, a new technology for detecting outbreaks which utilizes DNA sequencing of bacteria.

Whole Soy Products recalled its mung bean sprout products on August 28 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found contamination of Listeria monocytogenes.

During FDA inspections of the company’s facilities in August, investigators cited the company for 12 instances of unsanitary conditions, and they isolated 25 samples of Listeria contamination during environmental testing.

The company shut down the facility from August 28 to September 15, and the FDA did not find any contamination on products after that date.

Another inspection in October, however, found another nine environmental samples with Listeria contamination and another 12 instances of unsanitary conditions, nine of which were the same problems from the August inspections.

The FDA is working with the company to ensure they don’t produce sprouts until they have adequate assurance that the products are no longer contaminated with Listeria. The Illinois Department of Public Health is also working to embargo all products from the company.

Whole-genome sequencing of infections in all five patients were found to be connected to the Listeria isolated from the production plant. The illnesses included four people from Illinois and one from Michigan.

The CDC, FDA and state health departments are continuing to work on this investigation and will release new information as it becomes available.

Food Safety News

Sprouts earnings, sales climb in Q3

Sprouts Farmers Market, Phoenix, said earnings rose while new-store growth and strong comparable-store sales drove total revenues for the third quarter and 39 weeks ended Sept. 28.

Net income for the 13-week quarter rose 127.4% to $ 26.1 million, while sales jumped 21% to $ 766.4 million and comparable-store sales increased 9%. For the year to date net income climbed 113.9% to $ 89.9 million, with sales up 22% to $ 2.2 billion and comps rose 10.4%.

Sprouts opened 14 new stores in the quarter — four in Texas, three in California, three in Georgia and single units in Kansas, Nevada, Oklahoma and Utah — and a total of 24 units through the first three quarters of the year, for a total of 191 stores.

Sprouts said it voluntarily paid down $ 50 million of outstanding debt on its term loan during the quarter, ending the quarter with a principal balance of $ 263 million; $ 118.4 million cash and cash equivalents; and $ 52.6 million available under its revolving credit facility.

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Supermarket News

SN’s Analysts Roundtable, Part 3: Natural and organics, Sprouts, Wholesalers

Participants at SN’s 19th annual analysts roundtable predicted the natural and organics category will continue to gain wider consumer acceptance, with Sprouts posing a potential threat to Whole Foods. Participating analysts are: Chuck Cerankosky, managing director for Northcoast Research, Cleveland; Meredith Adler, managing director for Barclays Capital, New York; Andrew Wolf, managing director for BB&T Capital Investments, Boston; Karen Short, managing director for Deutsche Bank …

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Supermarket News

Sprouts sets Alabama expansion

Sprouts Farmers Market, Phoenix, said it plans to expand into Alabama early next year, with a store in Birmingham among seven new locations it announced Tuesday.

Sprouts entered the Atlanta market area earlier this year with four stores.

Besides the Alabama store, six other locations are scheduled to open early in 2015, the company said: in Bakersfield and Daly City, Calif.; Liberty, Mo.; Scottsdale, Arizona; South Jordan, Utah, and its fifth Atlanta area store in Cumming, Ga.

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Supermarket News

Sprouts sets Alabama expansion

Sprouts Farmers Market, Phoenix, said it plans to expand into Alabama early next year, with a store in Birmingham among seven new locations it announced Tuesday.

Sprouts entered the Atlanta market area earlier this year with four stores.

Besides the Alabama store, six other locations are scheduled to open early in 2015, the company said: in Bakersfield and Daly City, Calif.; Liberty, Mo.; Scottsdale, Arizona; South Jordan, Utah, and its fifth Atlanta area store in Cumming, Ga.

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Supermarket News

Sprouts sets Alabama expansion

Sprouts Farmers Market, Phoenix, said it plans to expand into Alabama early next year, with a store in Birmingham among seven new locations it announced Tuesday.

Sprouts entered the Atlanta market area earlier this year with four stores.

Besides the Alabama store, six other locations are scheduled to open early in 2015, the company said: in Bakersfield and Daly City, Calif.; Liberty, Mo.; Scottsdale, Arizona; South Jordan, Utah, and its fifth Atlanta area store in Cumming, Ga.

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Supermarket News

Social media, grassroots, research propelled Atlanta openings: Sprouts

Connecting with consumers through social media, grassroots efforts and extensive research helped propel the entry of Sprouts Farmers Market into Atlanta, company officials told investors.

“What you saw in Atlanta was just a really hard push upfront through social media and grassroots to get our brand in there,” Doug Sanders, president and CEO, said.

“The level of consumer anticipation around these openings was far more than we had ever experienced in a new market, as evidenced by the 40,000 Facebook fans we amassed before opening our first store and the more than 1,000 customers that signed up for our pre-opening event in less than one hour.

“Obviously, being able to connect with that consumer via social media and then having our on-the-ground grassroots marketing team out there several months before a store opens has been very, very beneficial.”

Sanders said the company also benefitted from extensive research designed to understand the customer in the Southeast. “The local products we brought in really gained us a lot of credibility with that Atlanta customer,” he pointed out, “and we’re seeing the benefit of that within the initial numbers.”

Sales at the first two stores in Atlanta “have started off well above our expectations, with continued momentum past the opening week,” Sanders noted.

The Phoenix-based chain opened its first Atlanta-area store in the suburb of Snellville, Ga., in mid-June and opened a second store in Dunwoody a month later. It has scheduled openings in Peachtree Corners in mid-August and John’s Creek in mid-September, with up to 11 more Georgia stores planned.

Sanders said Sprouts plans to maintain a new-store growth rate of 14% a year, “but given the opportunity, we’d flex up to take advantage of an opportunity that came our way.”

Amin Maredia, the chain’s CFO and treasurer, said the company is exploring the possibility of taking over leases of other businesses that could be converted to supermarkets, “but we’re seeing very aggressive rates in certain parts of the country, so we just have to be patient and not get too aggressive because there are plenty of opportunities in the 10 states we’re currently in.”

Asked about the chain’s capital priorities, Maredia said investment priorities include new stores first, followed by sales initiatives and disciplined remodeling activity.

In response to a question, Maredia said Sprouts is looking at online models “because we do have some urban stores, but most of our stores are in suburbs and customer preferences there haven’t shifted as much as if you were in the middle of San Francisco or New York City.

“What our customer base is telling us today is online is not an investment priority. That doesn’t mean we won’t do tests to see how these models work, and if they add significant benefit to the business, we would expand on that.”

Although produce sales account for about 25% of total volume, James L. Nielsen, the chain’s COO, said consumers “are giving us more credit than just being a produce store. They are giving us credit for being a value-oriented grocery store.”

Nielsen also said Sprouts is focusing on “being really disciplined around the customer,” determining what they want from the standpoint of products, services and education. “We think we are good today but we continue to get better by listening to our customers, and we are spending a lot of time [figuring out] what is the next thing we want to achieve over the next several years to be even better.”

Supermarket News

24 E. Coli Illnesses in Canada Linked to Bean Sprouts

Following a recent cluster of E. coli O157:H7 cases in the Edmonton area, Alberta Health Services (AHS) is advising people to take precautions to prevent the spread of the illness.

There have been a reported 24 cases of E. coli in the Edmonton area in recent weeks, and AHS officials believe bean sprouts to be the cause. The department is still investigating the outbreak, but said there should be no further risk to the public.

Consumers should thoroughly wash vegetables and fruits before eating them, cook beef to at least 160 degrees F, wash any tools or kitchen surfaces that have touched raw meat, and wash their hands often with hot, soapy water, especially after touching raw meat.

E. coli lives in the digestive tracts of humans and animals. There are many types of E. coli, and most of them are harmless, but some strains of E. coli can cause illness, predominantly abdominal cramping and diarrhea that may be bloody. Some strains of E. coli bacteria (such as  O157:H7) can cause more severe illness, including severe anemia or kidney failure, which can lead to death.

Food Safety News

Bean Sprouts Recalled in Canada for Potential Salmonella Contamination

Fresh Sprout International Ltd. is recalling Fresh Sprouts brand Fresh Bean Sprouts distributed in Ontario due to the potential of Salmonella contamination. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), there have been no reported illnesses associated with this product.

The recalled bean sprouts are sold in a 454-gram bag (about 1 pound) and have the UPC number 827468001000 and code 14/JUL/07. If purchased, the product should be thrown out or returned to the place of purchase.

The recall was triggered following an inspection conducted by the CFIA. For more information, contact Fresh Sprout at [email protected] or contact CFIA by filling out the online feedback form.

In healthy people, short-term symptoms associated with Salmonella can include fever, headache, vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. The risk of serious and sometimes deadly infections is higher among young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

Food Safety News

CDC Update: 18 E. coli Cases in Five States Linked to Evergreen Fresh Sprouts

The latest update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, as of June 27, 2014, a total of 18 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 (STEC O121) have been reported from five states. CDC states that epidemiology and traceback investigations indicate that the likely source of this outbreak is contaminated raw clover sprouts produced by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts LLC of Moyie Springs, ID.

Since the previous CDC update on June 10, 2014, one additional E. coli case has been reported from Washington. The total number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Idaho (3), Michigan (1), Montana (2), Utah (1), and Washington (11).

Evergreen sprouts were reportedly served in sandwiches at Jimmy John’s and Pita Pit outlets in Washington state and Idaho and at Daanen’s Deli in Idaho. The restaurants where the sickened individuals reported eating raw clover sprouts have voluntarily suspended serving them.

Because contaminated sprouts may still be in the marketplace, CDC is advising consumers not to eat any raw clover sprouts produced by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts. Inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) visited the Idaho facility twice in May and once earlier this month and reportedly found questionable conditions there.

However, there has been no recall of raw clover sprouts from Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, and the company owner has noted that E. coli tests of his products have come back negative.

Among persons for whom information is available, dates that the illnesses began range from May 1, 2014, to May 20, 2014. Ill persons range in age from 11 years to 45 years, with a median age of 27 years. Seventy-six percent of ill persons are female. Among those persons with information, seven (44 percent) out of 16 have been hospitalized. No ill persons have developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), and no deaths have been reported.

CDC notes that illnesses that began after June 4, 2014, might not yet be reported due to average of two to three weeks it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. See the Timeline for Reporting Cases of E. coli O157 Infection for more details.

On June 26, 2014, FDA and CDC officials held a meeting with the owner of Evergreen Fresh Sprouts to advise the firm of FDA’s concerns that the seed lot used to grow clover sprouts linked to this outbreak may be contaminated, and to encourage Evergreen Fresh Sprouts to discontinue using that seed lot for producing clover sprouts for people to eat. CDC is concerned that continued distribution and sales of raw clover sprouts produced from the same seeds pose a risk to human health.

At the end of the meeting, the owner of Evergreen Fresh Sprouts informed FDA that the firm planned to discontinue using the sprout seed lot that was used to grow the sprouts linked to the outbreak. FDA officials will continue to work with Evergreen Fresh Sprouts to ensure the use of this seed lot is discontinued.

This investigation is active and ongoing, and CDC plans to update the public when more information becomes available. CDC and state and local public health partners are continuing laboratory surveillance through PulseNet to identify additional ill persons and to interview them about foods they may have eaten before becoming ill.

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