Salmonella outbreak linked to peas sold at Farmers Markets

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Wisconsin Department of Health Services says at least seven people have fallen ill with Salmonella poisoning linked to peas sold at Farmers Markets in Green Bay, Madison, and Fond du Lac.

Photo courtesy: MGN

The fresh peas were sold July 22. They were sold as loose, shelled peas that were no longer in the pod.

Four of the illnesses are linked to peas sold at the Green Bay Saturday Farmers Market. One person was hospitalized.

Health officials continue to investigate the source of the peas. The Brown County Public Health Department is not releasing information on the vendor at this time.

Anyone who purchased loose peas from Green Bay, Fond du Lac or Madison farmers markets between July 19 and Aug. 5 is advised to throw them away.

The loose peas are no longer being sold at area farmers markets.

"They won't be sold tomorrow," Brown County Public Health Officer Anna Destree said Friday, ahead of the Green Bay Saturday Farmers Market. "They're out. They won't be available at the farmers market for people to consume, so the peas at the farmers market tomorrow will be safe."

The Broadway Farmers Market says it's aware of the outbreak, and for the time being loose peas will not be sold at that market, either.

Destree says the warning does not include peas still in a pod or shell.

As far as licensing goes for vendors, a public health sanitarian says that's usually up to the market organizers themselves.

"Because it's raw produce, it is generally considered exempt from licensing in the state. Anyone is allowed to sell produce," Lisa Hodgins said.

DHS says Salmonella is spread by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. It's also spread by contact with fecal matter of people who are infected.

Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and vomiting.

Click here for more information on Salmonella.

Although the counties involved in the Salmonella Outbreak are taking the lead on the investigation, Wisconsin's Department of Health Services is helping them out.

"We work to identify the source and determine what factors may have led to contamination of food sources," said Stephanie Smiley, Director of the Wisconsin Bureau of Communicable Diseases.

The state is looking at all possible sources of contamination, especially with all of the rain Brown County has seen this summer.

"Anytime you are talking about agriculture and farming, there's always going to be a risk of having bacteria in food items," said Smiley. "Certainly runoff can play a part in that especially when you are thinking about fertilizing fields."

The Brown County Public Health Department recommends washing fresh fruits and vegetables before eating.

More fresh food safety advice:

Store perishable fruits and veggies in a refrigerator at 40 degrees fahrenheit or below.

Refrigerate all produce that is pre-cut or peeled.

Never prepare food for others if you have diarrhea or vomiting.

Report suspected food poisoning to the health department.

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