At least 21 people have been infected with salmonella bacteria after eating chia seed powder, prompting a product recall and a multistate health investigation.
Chia seeds are a health food product commonly blended into smoothies or into snacks to enhance diets with added nutrients and curb appetite for weight loss. The seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, grown in Mexico, and are the same seeds used to sprout grass-like “fur” on clay figurines called Chia Pets.
These illnesses are the first to link the food borne illness salmonella to chia seed powder. The salmonella bacteria is most often found in meat and egg products, and it is nothing to sniff at. Each year in the United States, salmonella poisonings sicken about 1.2 million people and kill about 450.
Those with salmonella infections usually experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The illness usually lasts for four to seven days, and in some people the diarrhea may be so severe that hospitalization is necessary.
While the number of those sickened by the chia seeds is considered extremely low compared to other salmonella outbreaks, the powder’s long shelf life and small serving size could indicate that many more people have been sickened by the seeds but have not yet realized it is caused by the chia seeds.
Reports of illnesses last month in several states led federal investigators to the seeds, where they found two new strains of salmonella, called Hartford and Newport. It is still unclear how the salmonella was transported through the seeds. Additional infections linked to chia seeds have also been reported in Canada.
Last month, Navitas Naturals issued a recall of multiple nutritional powder products containing chia seeds. This month, Williams-Sonoma, Green Smoothie Girl, and Health Matters America also issued a recall.
Source: Chicago Tribune